WSG writes to QLDC ahead of next SOI [WSG, 27/10/20]
This afternoon we wrote to all QLDC Councillors to outline our deep concerns about QAC’s latest Statement of Intent which is on the agenda for Thursday’s meeting. Read our letter here…
[Our letter to QLDC Councillors today]
Tuesday, 27 October 2020
Dear Mayor Boult and QLDC Councillors
QAC Statement of Intent on the agenda for Thursday’s Council meeting
We acknowledge that Council is about to consider the Final 2020 Statement of Intent at its meeting this coming Thursday – the 29th of October. This SOI is to all intents only covering the five month period through until March next year – whereupon a new Draft SOI will be considered by Council and its Liaison committee. As you are aware – Wānaka Stakeholders Group is made up of approximately 3500 members of residents, ratepayers and businesses in the Upper Clutha. Our work on the Wānaka Airport is also widely supported by the community associations of Hawea, Albert Town, Luggate and Mt Barker.
Our comments are limited given the constraints of time available to review this document.
Firstly we support the statements re the consideration of enabling the reintroduction of scheduled turbo-prop services into Wānaka. The resumption of such a service has always been supported by WSG and has been outlined to all our members right from the outset. This new service should be supported as part of re-building regional connectivity for the Upper Clutha communities and is to be encouraged by both Council and QAC. This is, in essence, recommencing a service which our community previously enjoyed prior to Air NZ’s service being terminated in 2013.
As you are all well aware, WSG took legal proceedings against QLDC and QAC and sought judicial review by the High Court of previous significant actions and decisions made by both the Council and QAC in relation to Wānaka Airport and Project Pure. We anticipate that the Court’s decision will be handed down soon. This Court decision will be of critical relevance to what QLDC and QAC can and cannot do with Wānaka Airport, and will also likely impact on the validity of decisions made about Project Pure where QAC’s “planned runway” at Wānaka Airport is forcing QLDC into making planning and infrastructural decisions that will cost ratepayers millions of dollars more. This will clearly need urgent reconsideration in light of the forthcoming judgment.
It is in our opinion therefore nonsensical, if not arrogant, for QAC and the Council to proceed to agree to this SOI as if the judicial review case never occurred and ignoring all of the evidence and arguments presented to the Court for its review. Our view is that the Council should not agree to this latest SOI as it relates to Wānaka Airport without at least acknowledging that its content is subject to reconsideration when the High Court judgment is available.
We refer, for example, to the “Key Objectives” of QAC on page 7 of the SOI. Two of them are:
“Create our land and air footprint to facilitate future growth” and
“Develop long-term plans to support a sustainable dual airport model.”
While, in the High Court proceedings, QLDC’s officers and its lawyers suggested (incorrectly we say) that the term “dual airport” had been used (in the past) to mean or cover a range of possibilities, one meaning which the term “dual airport” definitely has, certainly to QAC and its consultants, is that Queenstown and Wānaka operating as “dual airports” means airports both capable of taking scheduled narrow-body jet aircraft services.
QLDC via its lawyers also claimed in the High Court (which is disputed) that via the SOI, QLDC, not QAC, still has complete control over any decision to develop Wānaka airport and further claimed that QLDC has never made such a decision. Given that, QLDC should not agree now to an SOI with these two “key objectives” which are premised on turning Wānaka Airport into a jet capable airport.
There is no point in QAC developing such a long-term plan for Wānaka airport unless and until a lawful decision has first been made by the Council following a lawful consultation with the community that Wānaka airport should be turned into a jet capable airport, and one which is operated by QAC under the Strategic Alliance Agreement with Auckland Airport.
This latest version of the SOI is both remarkable and defective for its now complete omission of any reference to the Strategic Alliance Agreement or to the so-called Memorandum of Lease, or the previously agreed “Wānaka Guiding principles”. How are all councillors and the public able to understand the full implications of this SOI without full reference to the impact of these arrangements?
On pages 10 and 11 of the SOI, QAC outlines that it intends to continue to consult the community on its plans as part of its master planning exercises – informed by its own demand forecasts. With respect, this is a significant failure in responsibility and process in relation to Wānaka Airport. It is effectively repeating the mistakes which have led to a record level of public concern and distrust amongst our communities on both sides of the “hill.”
An airport master plan has no regulatory basis and there is no legal requirement for QAC, a company owned 24.9% by Auckland airport, to act on any consultation it undertakes. As we have stated from the very beginning, we are entitled to be consulted, and require to be consulted, by QLDC, ie by those who we elect to govern our communities and who have the legal obligation to do so under the Local Government Act, particularly about community owned and controlled strategic assets such as Wānaka Airport and Project Pure.
It is not right that consultation is undertaken by a CCTO which is owned 24.99% by a commercial operation like Auckland Airport which has a Strategic Alliance Agreement that gives Auckland Airport very substantial management and governance power and influence well beyond anything normally available to a minority shareholder.
We trust these comments are helpful for your deliberations on this matter.
The Committee, Wānaka Stakeholders Group Incorporated*
Per Michael Ross, Chair
QLDC CEO, Mike Theelen
QAC CEO, Colin Keel
* WSG membership as at 15:50 Tuesday 27th October 2020 stands at 3,455 people.