Councillors vote to accept airport Statement of Intent [Crux, 23/04/20]
After a marathon debate this afternoon QLDC councillors voted to accept a Queenstown Airport Corporation Statement of Intent, in a move one councillor, Niamh Shaw, called “a dereliction of duty.” The meeting was held online using Zoom due to Covid-19 Alert Level 4 restrictions.
Councillor Shaw called the controversial document, that by everyone’s admission is rendered largely invalid by Covid-19, as “providing nothing in terms of governance” – comparing it to a confusing and meaningless drawing by her 8 year old daughter.
The issue under discussion was whether to accept the flawed document as required by council procedures or “kick it into touch” and require an entirely new document. Additional words were added to the draft SOI that gave extra protection against any expansion work by the airport corporation.
The airport corporation will be writing a new “post-Covid-19” SOI and a lot of the debate was over how long that process should take. Councillor Niki Gladding argued that by accepting the SOI today it exposed the council and ratepayers, who own 75% of the airport, to the risk of additional airport debt and even the sale of shares to offset that debt – resulting in a potential change of control.
Councillor Gladding was earlier asked by Mayor Jim Boult if she wanted to excuse herself from the debate due to comments she had made to Crux about the SOI issue. Councillor Gladding refused and continued to take part in the debate.
Wanaka councillor Niamh Shaw commented that it was “not hard” to produce a new Statement of Intent that took Covid-19 on board.
Eventually, after a number of intermediate debates, councillors voted in favour of accepting the Statement of Intent – with only Councillors Shaw and Gladding voting against.
At the start of the online meeting a summary of 88 submissions was read to the meeting, the vast majority of which were opposed to QLDC accepting the airport Statement of Intent – based on a need for the community to support a new future with less noise, pollution, strain on infrastructure and “over-tourism.”
- See our full submission below
Later in the meeting, Councillor Niki Gladding suggested that a Citizens Assembly be established so that the community could be better heard on issues that affect the future of the district. The suggestion was seemingly dismissed without further discussion by QLDC Corporate Services Manager Meaghan Miller.
Yesterday we wrote to Queenstown Lakes District Council. This is our submission to Council from our Committee on behalf of the membership.
[Submission on Wanaka Stakeholders Group Inc letterhead, sent Wed, 22 Apr, 13:12]
Submission to QLDC Full Council Meeting – 23 April 2020
Sent to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Submission on behalf of our 3,390 members.
As we’ve said in a recent letter to Council, we wish to acknowledge and show appreciation for the very important work QLDC staff are doing across so many key areas right now. While many of us have been hunkering down in our bubbles, Council staff have been ensuring that the essential cogs of QLDC keep turning, and also dealing with urgent and unprecedented issues. Thank you from all of us.
We wish to speak to Item 1 on the agenda today.
It will be no surprise to you that we would like to place on record, in the strongest possible terms, our opposition to QAC’s Statement of Intent being accepted, adopted or otherwise confirmed in its current state, even with the caveats which have been written into it in recent days. Almost all of it is now completely out of date or inaccurate, and simply putting a caveat up front is just not good enough. There is sufficient time, and there are people at QAC, to enable a fresh, short and accurate SOI to be produced. There is no reason for this not to be done.
We also place on record that we agree to the fullest extent with the email sent to you all by John Hillhorst on Tuesday. I draw your attention to his concluding comment: Despite these dramatic circumstances, there is no need to seek to circumscribe good governance and legal process.
At the very least the SOI should be updated to reflect the most up to date projections in relation to dividends QAC may or may not be able to pay to QLDC in the short term, as this directly impacts the Annual Plan and Council’s budget.
Out of respect for the multitude of issues you have to face as a Council, and we all have to face as a community, we have opted not to ask our members to make submissions on this point individually. Please be clear that we are representing our membership, making up a large section of the Upper Clutha Community. Whilst we are all focussed on the impacts of COVID-19, please ensure that we are laser focussed on ensuring that Council practices good governance and financial due diligence.
Please include this submission in full in your minutes.
On behalf of the membership and
The Committee, Wānaka Stakeholders Group Incorporated