WSG seeks urgent clarity from Mayor over Wanaka Airport comments made during voting period

In response to a statement made by Mayor Jim Boult on his “Boult for Mayor” Facebook page last week about his intentions for Wanaka, Wanaka resident Sally Currie started an online conversation with the Mayor. After he replied to her specifically about Wanaka Airport yesterday, Wanaka Stakeholders Group has posted some very specific questions for the Mayor to answer.

We are concerned that he is introducing new elements into the discussion, right in the middle of the voting period, and we have asked for urgent clarity, including clarity around whether these elements have been decided by Council following the normal processes. Our questions to the Mayor are below, as are his original comments to Sally Currie.

Questions posed to Jim Boult about Wanaka Airport on his campaign Facebook page at 1pm yesterday, 2nd October

Boult for Mayor – three further sets of questions arising from your response to Sally Currie …

1. You are now talking about an environmental study? But you only announced social and economic studies (as we have previously pointed out), and to our knowledge that’s all that’s covered in the council’s RFP which has gone out.
a) Where is the environmental study announced?
b) Why is it not in the RFP process?
c) What will the terms of reference be for this study – we are sure that many groups in the community will want to have involvement in ensuring that this is robust?
d) Who will set them?

2. To your point “the studies mentioned above will determine whether or not the Upper Clutha community supports the re-introduction of domestic services from Wanaka. If there is not majority support, it will not happen.”
a) How will that majority support be determined/measured?
b) What process will that take, and when?
c) Who decides the process, and who conducts it?

3. Have these new decisions in 1. and 2. above been discussed with and formally agreed with Councillors? If so, where and when, and where is the public record of this? Or is this a unilateral announcement that you are making now? This is very important.

Note that we are still waiting on detailed responses from you on:
a) control mechanism in the lease [Update: we now have this reply, but we feel it is lacking detail and there are significant issues here – see the reply, and our response here]
b) terms of reference setting for studies [See below]

Your responses to all of the above should be made very clear to residents and voters, and to be fair we have been asking for clarity around these areas for weeks.

As you know, people are voting, and their voting should be informed. Please therefore answer our questions so that we can update our 3,000+ members today.

Jim Boult’s original comments to Sally Currie re Wanaka Airport, 2nd October

I appreciate you are greatly concerned about the future of Wanaka Airport. I have replied in length to a comment you made on Councillor Alexa Forbes Facebook page. I’ll post an excerpt from that reply here: I assure you all information has been shared. The only document that was withheld was the lease agreement and I have arranged its release, last week. It was initially withheld because it contained commercially sensitive information around the airport’s tenants’ conditions. There are no other documents. The next airport reports will be the social/economic/environmental studies and I have given my word that these will involve substantial community engagement.

I’ve endeavoured to make my position on Wanaka Airport very clear, via the Wanaka Sun, the Messenger, Radio Wanaka, my Facebook page. This is it: the studies mentioned above will determine whether or not the Upper Clutha community supports the re-introduction of domestic services from Wanaka. If there is not majority support, it will not happen. To be clear – we are talking domestic services only.

There will not be international services from Wanaka Airport. There are already three International airports in the South Island. I know a QAC staff member was reported by the ODT talking about international services, but those comments are not supported by the QLDC which owns 75% of QAC. In regards to aircraft type, ATR/turbo-prop aircraft could service any likely destination from Wanaka, except Auckland.

It is my understanding, as a former CEO of Christchurch Airport, that a narrow-body jet would be needed if a Wanaka-Auckland service was desired by the community. Yes, I support the re-introduction of services to main centres from Wanaka Airport. I believe there are social advantages by making it easier for families to connect; it would make it more feasible for our younger generation to both remain in Wanaka and have city job opportunities, if they had easier access to cities; it would be useful to business people, broadening our economic base from tourism; it would help to ease the pressure on Queenstown Airport, as there are 400,000 Upper Clutha-based passenger movements through Queestown Airport a year.

I am very aware of the environmental impacts and they will be fully considered during the studies, but I’m also aware that, if demand in Wanaka reached more than a very small number of flights a day, aircraft technology will likely have advanced to a stage that its carbon footprint is less. This is my view, but I fully accept the community’s view, and therefore the outcome, may well be different

Our original comments re terms of reference (six days ago) echoing letters we have previously sent to Mr Boult and QLDC. No response to any of this.

These studies – and others we would require – should only go ahead if the community has real input to the terms of reference which should also then dictate the selection of consultants, the milestone reports feedback, and the interim and final reports as they are delivered back to QLDC – so that they are subject to public scrutiny and full transparency.

We would even go as far as to say that the terms of reference should be signed off by a steering group, which should include representatives from the Wanaka Community Board, our Community Association representatives and WSG.

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