WSG court documents delve into allegations [Wanaka Sun, 27/02/20]
The Statement of Claim brought by the Wānaka Stakeholders Group and the Statements of Defence by Queenstown Lakes District Council and Queenstown Airport Corporation show the depth of locked horns on the issue of Wānaka Airport development.
The extensive documentation can be boiled down to a handful of core claims: WSG alleges that QLDC acted unlawfully in granting a 100-year lease to QAC by acting outside of its delegation of authority.
They also allege that the ‘Perpetual Lease and Asset Sale agreement’ (officially titled the Memorandum of Lease), in essence, constitutes a sale — whilst the land itself is leased, the existing runway, taxiway, apron, roads and carparks, buildings, building fit out, portable buildings and other plant equipment were sold to QAC. WSG also alleges that the purchase of just over $12million worth of surrounding land by QAC in 2016-17 also reveals that QAC had bigger aspirations for Wānaka Airport than what were being disclosed at the time. WSG states that the purchase of the surrounding land was not only not revealed to the public, it wasn’t even stated in the 2106 Statement of Intent to QLDC.
In their response, QAC stated, “It admits that the statement of intent dated 30 June 2016 did not refer to those parcels of land but … a decision to purchase land adjacent to the airport would not need to be specifically identified in the statement of intent.”
WSG alleges “side agreements” and “plans to develop the airport” have been deliberately withheld from the public however QAC’s response, bluntly states, “It did not have “plans” as alleged.” QLDC responds that there were no ‘side agreements’ except “two side letters relating to matters of access, registration and new water supply services to the boundary of Wānaka Airport Land.” Over the last year, the existence of secret side agreements has been alluded to by WSG as a smoking gun of proof that QLDC and QAC have been planning a jet-capable airport from the very beginning; however the revelation in the court documents that the only side agreements are in relation to access, registration and water suggests that those allegations are unfounded.
However, the sticking point which the judicial review needs to clarify is whether the Perpetual Lease and Asset Sale Agreement surmounted, in effect, to an actual sale as claimed by WSG. They have claimed that the lease gave effective ownership of the airport to QAC, with legal ownership of the airport assets; it also had the effect of permitting QAC to develop make the airport jet-capable; gave QAC control over the development and/or relocation of Project Pure; and required QLDC to buy-back all the assets and surrounding land at the end of the perpetual lease in the event the lease was not continued. On this, WSG says had not had “proper and lawful consultation,” were “significant decisions” within the Local Government Act, and were beyond the delegated authority given to council.
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