Queenstown airport lease over Wanaka “illegal” – airport expansion blocked [Crux, 21/04/21]

The Queenstown Lakes District Council and Queenstown Airport Corporation (QAC) have lost a High Court judicial review that means control of Wanaka Airport will be taken off QAC – and airport expansion will be off the table.

The result is a major victory for the Wanaka Stakeholders Group. Chair Michael Ross told Crux within minutes of the judgement being released this afternoon that they were “absolutely delighted” with the outcome. Costs were awarded against QAC and QLDC who between them had spent an estimated $1 million defending the case.

“This means that a jet capable airport at Wanaka will not be happening.” Mr Ross told Crux.

During the court hearing in Queenstown last year before Justice Van Bohemen (main image above) Mayor Jim Boult and the QLDC were accused of being evasive and misleading over Wanaka airport expansion by lawyers acting for the Wanaka Stakeholders Group.

The result is a double blow against QLDC and QAC not just through the Wanaka Airport lease being declared illegal, but because the case centred on how truthful they had been in communicating with the Wanaka community prior to the lease being granted.

The Queenstown Lakes District Council issued this statement after the judgement was released:

“Queenstown Lakes District Council (QLDC) has received and acknowledges the decision of the High Court on the judicial review proceedings brought by the Wanaka Stakeholders Group (WSG). We acknowledge that the Court has found that the Council did not follow the correct statutory processes to lease the Airport to Queenstown Airport Corporation, but welcome its rejection of WSG’s position that QLDC had deliberately misled the community in doing so.

 “We will be reflecting on the findings of Justice Van Bohemen and working with Councillors and QAC to agree the next steps for Wānaka Airport, and communicating those with the community and most importantly with the many businesses operating out of the facility. In the meantime the Wānaka Airport remains in the ownership of QLDC and we will look to QAC to continue to provide a managed service, and to ensure that there is minimal disruption to operators and tenants.

 “QLDC will not be making any further comment at this time.”

A short time ago the Queenstown Airport Corporation made this statement: 

“Queenstown Airport Corporation (QAC) acknowledges the High Court’s recent decision on the judicial review proceedings brought by the Wanaka Stakeholders’ Group (WSG).

 QAC will work with its majority shareholder, Queenstown Lakes District Council, to consider the next steps related to the decision.

 QAC will not be making any further comment at this time.”

You can read the full judgement here –  and below is a summary form the High Court in Christchurch.

You can read previous Crux coverage of the case here and here.

Images: Crux

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