Airport survey sparks criticism and confusion [Wanaka Sun, 27/02/20]

Online feedback on the future of airports in the district was launched last Thursday, February 20, as part of the ongoing “conversation” between Queenstown Lakes District Council (QLDC) and the community.

According to QLDC, the consultant engaged to undertake these conversations, MartinJenkins, took insight from focus groups held last week to share a “set of key questions,” giving participants the opportunity to comment on various possible scenarios in an online survey. 

However, the survey immediately attracted criticism from residents and local groups on a number of levels. “Since it went live 24 hours ago, we’ve received a steady flow of messages from members complaining about the survey (both content and functionality),” read the Wānaka Stakeholders Group (WSG) website. “Having reviewed it closely, we are even more concerned than before that this consultation process is skewed and broken.”

Michael Ross, Chair of WSG, subsequently wrote to MartinJenkins on Monday outlining six “significant concerns” with the survey. These included that some antivirus software identified a security issue with the site, meaning people were blocked from completing it, that members found questions “ambiguous and/or vague,” and at times “leading or misleading,” and that the airport scenarios provided did not cover all meaningful options.

“The scenario of introducing just ATRs/turbo-props into Wānaka Airport is not even offered.  And yet this was one scenario which got significant support in our forum. The forums were —  we were advised — to inform and refine the online questionnaire,” wrote Ross. 

He also noted that, because there was no unique identifier for those taking the survey, there was a “real possibility” that individuals or organisations could answer multiple times, and that results could be “gamed.” 

Finally, Mr Ross concluded that the online survey “does not meet even entry level best practice  standards for a consultative exercise of this importance. Trust in the process is very, very low.”

MartinJenkins responded on Tuesday, but did not uphold the concerns expressed by WSG on behalf of the community. 

With regard to the technical issues with the survey, Principal Consultant Jason Leung-Wai stated that an open and anonymous survey would capture “a range of perspectives rather than generate a statistically representative sample,” and “the findings will not be materially affected by multiple responses.” He added that the survey was using an established secure platform, and having currently received over 1,200 responses, the company had received “only a few requests for technical support,”

Read this in full here.

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