WSG urges QLDC to stop wasting money on Airport reports, ahead of High Court hearing

This morning, we wrote to QLDC on behalf of our members, urging the Council to stop wasting ratepayers’ money on impact reports relating to Wanaka Airport. Our letter and media release are below.

MEDIA RELEASE – for immediate release
[Wanaka, 1:00pm 26 November, 2019]

Wanaka community group urges QLDC to “stop wasting significant money” on airport reports ahead of High Court case

Wanaka Stakeholders Group Inc. has this morning written to QLDC, formally requesting that they immediately put a halt to further reports, until the High Court judicial review case about Wanaka Airport is heard.

The group, now representing over 3,000 members of the Wanaka and Upper Clutha communities, including over 500 business owners, wrote to the Mayor and CEO of the Council on behalf of its members, outlining why work on the reports should cease, pending the outcome of the judicial review.

WSG Chair, Michael Ross, said: “Despite the fact that we’ve issued proceedings in the High Court and raised significant concerns about key decisions the Council has made, QLDC is barreling ahead with impact reports about Wanaka Airport. This is a waste of ratepayers’ money – and the costs will be significant. The Court should determine the issues first.”

Mr Ross said that newly elected Councillors should “do the right thing” rather than allowing Council to “charge ahead with further reports about airport development.”

WSG filed proceedings a month ago, asking the High Court to review decisions made by Queenstown Lakes District Council to transfer substantial ownership and control of Wanaka Airport to Queenstown Airport Corporation, on the grounds that those decisions were both unlawful and unreasonable. Mr Ross says that the group has not yet received a response from QLDC or QAC.

Letter to QLDC follows …

The Mayor and CEO
Queenstown Lakes District Council
Queenstown 
(By email, individually)

Tuesday 26th November 2019

Dear Mayor Boult and Mr Theelan

Wānaka Airport – Judicial Review of QLDC’s and QAC’s actions and decisions

  1. We refer to QLDC’s media release dated 13 November 2019 announcing the appointment of Martin Jenkins as “provider of the Economic and Social Impact Assessments […] committed to [by] Mayor Jim Boult and his Council in August”.
  2. The release concludes that “the outputs from the assessments will be used as a foundation for informing the Queenstown Airport Corporation 2020-2022 Statement of Intent that will be drafted for March 2020”.
  3. We formally request that this process be halted immediately by the new Council.  In summary, the reasons for this request are:
    1. The assessments you are purporting to commission in relation to any future development of Wānaka Airport and QAC’s 2020-2022 Statement of Intent are based on the fundamental premise that the so-called “lease” of Wānaka Airport to QAC (including any related “side agreements” entered into between QLDC and QAC) were lawfully entered into and are binding legal agreements in respect of Wānaka Airport (and Project Pure).  This underlying fundamental premise is in issue before the Court in the judicial review proceedings filed and served on QLDC and QAC by WSG – almost a month ago. The case is called for a first conference with a High Court judge on 9 December.
    2. The impact assessment process proceeds on the fundamental basis that QAC is effectively the party owning existing Wānaka Airport on the terms of the so-called “lease” and that any influence on QLDC’s part is via the Statement of Intent process.
    3. It is unreasonable and potentially a waste of a substantial amount of ratepayers’ money for QLDC to proceed with any such assessments before the Court has heard and determined the issues.  As you are already aware, WSG is seeking an expedited hearing of the proceedings and expects that QLDC and QAC will cooperate fully with that.
    4. Furthermore, when the mayor unilaterally announced the intention to proceed with the impact report approach (full Council meeting, 8th August 2019 – link here) WSG set out promptly in response its members’ serious concerns and requested assurances about what seemed to be proposed (see our series of three letters linked here – dated 9th August, 15th August and 21 August).  These letters were sent over three months ago, and we never received any satisfactory reply to the significant concerns raised. 
    5. The process now signalled in QLDC’s 13 November release, and also observable in the Request for Proposals, confirms that the process is still inappropriate for the same reasons we have previously outlined, and all the more so now that the terms of the so-called “lease” have finally been disclosed.
  4. You will see that we are copying all individual councillors, all Wānaka Community Board Members, the chairs of the four community associations in Wānaka, and Colin Keel.  In the circumstances, please also copy it to members of “the teams” from QLDC and to Martin Jenkins who you have indicated will “come together to shape up the programme of work” and “agree project timelines.”  They should be fully aware of our concerns recorded in this letter.
  5. We remind you that this letter (as with previous letters) is written on behalf of our members, now totalling over 3,000 people, including well over 500 business owners.  Our membership represents a very large cross section of the community, and the vast majority of our members are ratepayers and local residents. We continue to receive frequent, strong messages of support from our members, confirming that there is deep concern in the community about the effective disposal of our airport and the lack of prior lawful consultation, transparency and control over the future of both Wānaka Airport and Project Pure.
  6. We await your reply and reserve our position in all respects pending that reply.  

Yours sincerely

The Committee, Wānaka Stakeholders Group Incorporated*

Per Michael Ross, Chair

Cc list: QLDC Councillors, Wānaka Community Board members, Chairs of each of the four Wanaka based community associations, CEO QAC

* WSG membership as at 18:30 Monday 25/11/19 stands at 3,024 people.

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