QLDC’s airport survey release slides back – again [Crux, 21/05/20]

The much vaunted report that was supposed to guide future airport expansion will now not be released until the middle of June. QLDC says the consultants producing the report, MartinJenkins, have struck “operational problems” linked to Covid-19.

Crux was told on May 11, just 10 days ago, that QLDC was “still intending to release the report later this month (May 2020) as planned.” The council’s full response to Crux questions today about the report release date being changed is published further in this story but they have explained the new date as “we thought we had advised about the date change.” Crux can find no such advice.

There is no reason that these external consultants should be delaying work, when all the key data was gathered prior to lockdown. MartinJenkins are citing “operational problems, yet on their website they are offering “rapid turnaround” Covid-19 response work, and on their home page they claim that “Everyone at MartinJenkins is set up to work from home without any restriction to our services. We are available to you via email, phone and video conferencing.” Image: MartinJenkins website

Originally the report was due out in March this year so that it could inform the council’s consideration of the Queenstown Airport Corporation’s Statement of Intent (SOI).

The SOI was instead adopted by council in controversial circumstances last month, against the views of over 80 public submitters who opposed adoption of the SOI that gives theoretical permission for further airport expansion work. QAC has however given an undertaking not to carry out any further expansion work.

Previously Crux has asked if the report is being reviewed or edited by QLDC prior to being released to the public and the answer as been an unequivocal “No.”

However councillor Niki Gladding has asked the council to share the raw report data so that the community can be confident that the correct conclusions have been drawn. This request was refused by QLDC CEO Mike Theelen on the grounds that the data only “contributes” to the report’s conclusions and it would be potentially misleading to interpret any data in isolation. Mr Theelen also told Councillor Gladding that the airport expansion document was “not a survey or a poll.”

Councillor Gladding has now filed a LGOIMA offical information request to access the data.

Reacting to news of further delays in the report’s release Mark Sinclair, deputy chair of the Protect Wanaka lobby group, told Crux “We have numerous concerns about the way the work was conducted by MartinJenkins early this year, and we have placed those firmly on record (letters here and here).

“We understand that QLDC has needed to divert its focus to district-wide Covid-19 issues.  Presumably the consultants employed at great expense to the district’s ratepayers to deliver these independent reports should have been working to get them in on time, to the original timetable. Community data was all gathered well before lockdown, and the original completion deadline was towards the start of lockdown.  So it’s disappointing to hear of these unnecessary delays.

“We’re interested to see the reports, but our expectations are fairly low.”

Read this in full here.

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