Hundred-year lease over Wānaka Airport was unlawful, High Court rules [NZH, 21/04/21]

The High Court has cancelled a 100-year lease over Wānaka Airport that Queenstown Lakes District Council granted to the Queenstown Airport Corporation, saying it was unlawful.

But a request by residents to seek an order preventing the airport’s future development has been declined.

A judgment from Justice Gerard Van Bohemen, released on Wednesday, found the council’s decision to award the lease in 2017 “went considerably beyond the scope” of what was proposed when the council carried out consultation the year prior.

The court also ruled the decision to grant the lease could only be made during the council’s long-term plan discussions – a process which happens every three years.

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These were breaches of the Local Government Act, the judgment said.

The judgments were the consequence of a judicial review filed in 2019 by the Wānaka Stakeholders Group, which was made up of about 3500 residents and business owners.

Plans for the proposed jet-capable Wānaka Airport have been thwarted for now.
SUPPLIED: Plans for the proposed jet-capable Wānaka Airport have been thwarted for now.

It was set up to oppose plans to expand Wānaka airport and allow scheduled commercial jet flights.

Queenstown Airport is 75 per cent owned by the local council and 25 per cent owned by Auckland Airport. Before the lease deal, the local council owned Wānaka Airport and Queenstown Airport operated it.

In 2016, a review of the Wānaka Airport governance structure found four potential future options and the recommended one was granting a “long-term lease” to Queenstown Airport.

These four options were consulted on publicly.

In the court judgment, Justice Van Bohemen said during consultation he did not think the council expected the airport would be redeveloped for jet aircraft and the lease would be for 100 or more years.

Read this in full here.

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