Monday’s Council meeting was indeed extraordinary!

Earlier today, the Mayor and Councillors of QLDC met for an “extraordinary meeting” of Council. First item on the agenda was QAC’s revised Statement of Intent, and the Council team (including CEO) had made the recommendation that Councillors “accept” this document. That would then mean that QAC could move forward with plans – some clear, and some not.

The Council chamber wasn’t open to the public until a few minutes before 10am. Councillors were having a quick pre-meeting meeting, to discuss how to deal with what was likely to be a thorny issue. That was well spotted!

At 10am, the doors were opened, and our own Calum McLeod welcomed everyone through the door. The meeting started promptly at 10am with a few procedural matters, and then public submissions.

WSG kicked off with a three minute submission to Councillors, outlining why we thought is was both wrong and unreasonable for them to vote the SOI through. The closing paragraph was: “To all of you, our chosen representatives of Wakatipu and Upper Clutha, we implore you to make the right decision on behalf of both yourself and your community. When you look back on this moment, it will either fill you with great pride or great shame. The choice is yours.”

Rubbish! Ben Acland brings rubbish and talk of “poos in the lake” to Council.

The tone was set. Another 20 or so submissions followed, most where around three minutes, including:

  • Numerous Queenstown residents urging the Council not to develop Queenstown Airport (or its operations) further
  • A local artist, whose new artwork depicts a sky full of jets over Queenstown’s Remarkables range.
  • Submissions from Wanaka residents including Nick Page, Meg Taylor and Ben Acland (who brilliantly turned up with a bag full of rubbish he’d collected on the way to the meeting, upset at the increase in rubbish throughout our community).
  • The final submission was from Cath Gilmour, ex Councillor, journalist, well known in Queenstown and a vocal and well organised leader of people opposing airport plans in Queenstown. She launched Protect Queenstown and the We Love Wakatipu group, soon to be incorporated, and already numbering 202 members after launching less than half a business day earlier.
  • Cath introduced the the fabulous Craig Smith, author/songwriter of Wonkey Donkey, who sang his new song “GreedsTown” to the Mayor and Councillors. QAC’s CEO Colin Keel and head of comms Sara Irvine
We Love Wakatipu’s Cath Gilmour makes her submission to Council.

An hour later, with public submissions complete, the meeting moved on to the Council session. Agenda item 1 then came up: QAC’s Statement of Intent.

There was detailed discussion and debate – with the public gallery watching on. Alexa Forbes kicked off the critique of the SOI with numerous objections – all very valid – and various Councillors followed. One described the document as “confusing”, while another said it felt like a “cut and paste” job. Another said that it had too many “growth” words in it. Alexa Forbes confirmed that Councillors had not had sufficient time to review the document, nor had they ever met with the board of QAC. It should be noted that both Calum McLeod and Quentin Smith made detailed and thoughtful statements, and both said that they were very mindful of opposition and concern within the community, and could not accept the SOI in its current form.

In short, the SOI vote led to the document not being accepted by Council, thanks to various Councillors concerned at the state of the document and mindful of strong opposition within the community. Both Calum and Quentin voted against the motion (and therefore against the document being accepted).

The Mayor then asked QAC CEO Colin Keel if he could have the SOI revised, and Colin asked for clarification. When asked if he could have this done by the next QLDC meeting, Mr Keel replied “our next board meeting is not until the end of October.” And so on.

What does this mean?

It’s hard to tell. We’ll wait to see how the Mayor chooses to move this forward. [Update] Meantime, we’ve written to all Councillors to make our position clear.

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