WSG replies to Mayor Boult’s Facebook post about Wanaka Airport

An hour ago, Jim Boult (QLDC Mayor standing for reelection) posted on Facebook about “continuing misconceptions” about Wanaka Airport, and his desire to address them. We are concerned about the accuracy of some of his claims, and so we have replied to his post. As ever, we are doing this transparently. We have replied to his post on Facebook, and Crux (where it was shared), and here on our website and Facebook page.

WSG’s reply to Mayor Boult’s Facebook post this afternoon

Mr Boult, thank you for your statement. WSG would like to ensure full transparency and clarity around each of the points you’ve made, particularly at a time when people are voting. So we answer your points below, and in detail.

1. You say there are no plans for trans-Tasman? In fact, QAC is on record, in the media, as having said that international flights out of Wanaka are “on the table”. ODT, 1 May, 2019: ”We will, over time, based on the organic demand from Wanaka and to Wanaka, look at transtasman services and that likely will start with, like it did in Queenstown, charter ski services to Australia, maybe.” To our knowledge this has not been negated or corrected, and it has been repeated (without challenge from QAC or QLDC) in media and on social media many times. The original ODT article is here: https://www.odt.co.nz/regions/wanaka/airport-could-cost-400m

Quite apart from the fact that QAC have made this statement which is in direct contradiction to what you are saying today, once you allow jets into Wanaka, by what mechanism would you stop QAC allowing international carriers in, Mr Boult? They have stated that flight are driven by airline demand, and that that demand may include international services?

2. Your view that ATRs would be appropriate for all destinations other than Auckland. We have a report coming out in the next 24 hours which shows this is incorrect. ATRs are perfectly capable of efficiently and safely servicing an AKL <> WKA route. We will share this with you online as soon as it is available.

Even if we were wrong about this, why is a direct jet service to Auckland an imperative for our community? Has the community told you that we must have direct flights to Auckland, and only by jet? We reject this.

3. Opposition to Jets vs Pro Jets. We completely understand that there are some people in the community who are pro-jets. We welcome discussion around the issues from all quarters – that’s the way local democracy should work. What we are not comfortable with is our Mayor or other elected representatives talking about “large numbers” of “less vocal” people, private conversations and emails, which none of us can validate. Discussion needs to be transparent.

Your agenda Mr Boult is that you want to drive growth. You have been very clear about that, and we understand that. You are a businessman, and as Chair of a large tourism company (one of NZ’s largest), volume of inbound passengers is key. The Upper Clutha community asks – in fact demands – that we are properly consulted, fully involved and that the decisions that Council makes about OUR community reflects the community’s wishes. There is also sentiment amongst our community that you should not be involved in making these decisions, given your role with Wayfare Group, plus your former key roles with Christchurch International Airport and the Civil Aviation Authority.

4. There might well be “large numbers of locals” who want to fly to Auckland. We can drive over the hill to Frankton in less than an hour. Families and friends in Auckland often have to drive for longer than that to get to their airport. There are plenty of other, much bigger communities in NZ without direct jet links to Auckland. Nelson is just one of them, and it has way more residents than Wanaka. Let the community, not big business, decide whether we want direct Auckland flights or not. And again, ATRs or other turbo props can easily do this if this is something the community demands, as you suggest.

5. Yes, we have criticised the timing of the release of your lease agreement. Polling papers are out. People are voting. And releasing just one part of the entire jigsaw we have been asking for, to look as though you are meeting the community half way, is disingenuous. If you were being truly transparent, you’d release everything we’ve asked for. As a reminder, details of the communities numerous concerns are in the many letters we’ve sent you, including this one from mid August: https://protectwanaka.nz/2019/08/15/wsg-responds-to-councils-new-approach-to-airport/

6. Nothing you have outlined above alters the fact that QLDC has neither properly informed nor consulted the community around the future of Wanaka Airport. If you need independent verification that we are being objective, surely the very extensive survey undertaken by Crux makes that abundantly clear. For convenience, here’s the link: https://crux.org.nz/community/airport-survey-overwhelmiing-majority-against-expansion-critical-of-communications/?fbclid=IwAR3F8TyTP93fBKrZIxEoTYezZfjpjuOBtBHb7XGl0oP4-2kmH7WUdOxkK7M

Mr Boult, we and our nearly 3,000 members are deeply concerned and we will continue to hold QLDC and QAC to account.

As ever, we will publish this exchange in full on our website and on key social sites, and invite the community to comment.

Thank you
Wanaka Stakeholders Group Inc.

Original Facebook post about Wanaka Airport, posted by Mayor Jim Boult at approx. 2pm today.

Wanaka Airport: I’m concerned about the continuing misconceptions around Wanaka Airport. I would like to reiterate there are no plans – and never have been – for trans-Tasman or international flights out of Wanaka. There are already three international airports in the South Island. A fourth is not required.

The only development at Wanaka Airport that has been discussed is the re-introduction of domestic flights. Turbo-prop/ATR aircraft would be appropriate for all destinations other than Auckland, where an Airbus 320 or Boeing 737 (narrow-body jets) would be required. Yes, these aircraft are also used for trans-Tasman flights but, I repeat, there is no intention to provide trans-Tasman services from Wanaka. There is a perfectly adequate trans-Tasman airport in Queenstown, just 60kms from Wanaka.

There is a vocal group in Wanaka which is opposed to jets. I have heard you. But I also hear from large numbers of less vocal locals who would welcome the opportunity to fly directly from Wanaka to Auckland for business and family reasons. The economic and social impact studies will enable all voices to be heard and, I give you my word, that community input will shape the decision.

On another matter, the Wanaka Stakeholders Group has criticised the timing of my September 24 release of the Wanaka Airport lease agreement between QLDC and QAC. The stakeholders’ group asked me on September 5 if I supported release of the agreement. I said yes. I then spoke to QLDC management about it, who in turn spoke to QAC management. Agreement from all parties was reached on September 23 and the full document was released the following day.

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