WSG writes to Councillors about airport expansion [WSG, 24/02/20]

Tomorrow, our elected representatives are having an extraordinary meeting of Councillors to lay out some guiding principles for QAC in a “letter of expectation”. Each Councillor gets to vote on the contents of the letter. Today, we wrote this letter, and sent it to each of them.

The letter is laid out in full below. If you agree with what’s written below and are currently not a member of Wanaka Stakeholders Group, please sign up. Our membership is growing by the hour, and is a clear sign that the people of Upper Clutha are seeking transparency, real consultation and a positive future for our community.

[Letter on Wanaka Stakeholders Group Inc letterhead, sent at approx. 4:30 pm today]

The Councillors

Queenstown Lakes District Council


(By email, individually)

Monday 24th February 2020

Dear Councillors

Wānaka and Queenstown Airports – decisions you make in the coming days and months affecting our communities

We are writing to each of you individually to echo deep concerns our members have in relation to decisions each of you are making, or are about to make, in relation to Wanaka and Queenstown airports.  Our members (now numbering over 3,300) are feeling frustrated, shut out and ignored. These sentiments are echoed by other community organisations around the Upper Clutha, as well as many in Queenstown.

We appreciate the difficulties of representing diverse opinions while at the same time achieving a common goal.  However, our concern is that there are important issues which are either being neglected or subverted by council processes and your senior staff.  We encourage you as an individual elected member to engage with issues in a way which reflects the wellbeing of the community.  

Environment and climate change not being taken seriously
Last year, the Council declared a climate emergency.  If this is to be seen as more than just “greenwashing”, taking immediate steps to reduce this region’s impact on the environment should be a guiding principle behind every decision you take as an elected representative of QLD residents.  If your vote on any matter is going to lead to more pollution or significant impact on the environment, and there is not extremely strong justification for doing so, you are working against the spirit of Council’s commitments.

There is no doubt that the construction and operation of a jet capable airport in Wanaka will have significant environmental impacts, directly and indirectly.  Our members feel strongly that this is not the time for QLDC to be supporting a bid to build a second jet airport in the region, as it flies directly in the face of doing everything we can as a region to reduce our impact on the environment.

We urge you each to put the environment first and foremost in your decision making.  

Public health
Public health is very important to the people of the Upper Clutha, but we have reason to believe it is not being taken seriously.  We are deeply concerned that at a recent community meeting in Luggate at which questions relating to a jet airport were raised, the Mayor, with the CEO present, reportedly said that jets’ engines burn so hot that they produce no pollution. 

This is not only misleading, but it flies in the face of numerous scientific reports and common sense.  This is irresponsible political maneuvering, and it is a deliberate false statement. We have not included links out to the relevant science here, but if for any reason you are in doubt, we can do so.

We urge you in your role as an elected Councillor to ensure that public health is made a very high priority, and that this kind of political maneuvering is not mandated by Council.  Aircraft emissions and pollution, particularly affecting people beneath flight paths both in Queenstown and Wanaka, are amongst the many concerns residents in our wider community are very concerned about.

The recent decision of Bristol City Councillors in relation to expanding Bristol Airport
You should be aware of the bold, brave and good decision some of your peers, faced with similar challenges, have just made.  Despite a “strong” economic case for expansion of the airport by Bristol Airport’s CEO, and a 175 page report from Council staff recommending approval, city councillors voted 18 to 7 against allowing expansion.  Please take the time to read why Councillors voted this way.  Their comments are powerful.  This is just one of many examples, but has many similarities to the decisions you are about to make which will undoubtedly ultimately lead to significantly more jets in both Queenstown and Wanaka.

The state of the airport “consultation” process
As you are no doubt aware, there is deep community concern about the current consultation process MartinJenkins is running on your behalf as part of the economic and social impact assessments you have asked for.  Our view is that the objectivity and process is broken. Our concerns are outlined in the letter we have just sent to them, also sent to you at around 2:45pm this afternoon.

Thank you for representing our communities, and for taking the wellbeing of the community seriously.  We are relying on you, and each of your peers in Council, to make the right decisions.

Yours sincerely

The Committee, Wānaka Stakeholders Group Incorporated*

Per Jane Passmore

Cc list:

  • Chairs of each of the five Wanaka based community associations
  • WSG membership
  • WSG legal team

* WSG membership as at 12:30 Monday 24th February 2020 stands at 3,327 people. 

Join the Wanaka Stakeholder Group Inc. for free here

Encourage others to with this post.

%d bloggers like this: