WSG submissions to Full Council Meeting 29th April 2021

Below is our submission to Council at the first full Council meeting following the publication of the High Court decision about the Wanaka Airport lease.

Good afternoon.

I’m Mark Sinclair, deputy chair of Wanaka Stakeholders Group, submitting on behalf of our 3,501 members including 630 who own a businesses, and with the support of five residents associations.

The people of the Upper Clutha have spoken: we don’t want or need a jet airport in Wanaka. Even your MartinJenkins report very clearly identifies this.

During the election, when we finally saw the so-called lease, never approved by Council and kept secret from us, it became clear that the 2016 consultation didn’t even contemplate such a “far-reaching and unusual” lease nor jets at Wanaka. A week ago, the High Court released its judgement. The judge found in our favor. The judge said it ”strained credulity“ to suggest that such lease terms would have been agreed without a jet airport in contemplation.

When covid hit we immediately suggested a “full reset”. But Mayor Jim Boult, purportedly on behalf of the council, wrote back and flatly refused to get rid of the lease.

So we’ve had to go to the High Court to get an order exactly to that effect. The unlawful lease has now gone, and the council – not QAC – must start again and consult openly and transparently on any plans for Wanaka Airport – the community’s strategic asset. 

Unbelievably, three days after the decision was released, deputy mayor Calum MacLeod was in the ODT saying that this is “just an issue with the process”. That’s not what the High Court said.

You and we have spent precious time and money on this. But in your case, you’ve been spending our money. You’ve also squandered an additional $2.7 million of our money on Project Pure to make way for your proposed runway.

The climate emergency, environmental impacts, covid, overtourism, creaking infrastructure – these are all reasons that make a jet capable airport at Wanaka or more jets into Queenstown indefensible decisions.

Mr Mayor, despite what you tell people, we DO represent the community – a sizeable chunk of it – and we DO tell the truth.  Councillors and QLDC executives, we are watching you, we will hold you to account and we will not go away. 

To those of you who support the mayor’s and airport companies’ pro-airport growth agenda, our members have asked us to deliver a clear message to you: Queenstown’s and Auckland Airport’s narrow commercial interests will NOT trump the wider, and frankly much more pressing interests of our communities.

What we have wanted all along has now been confirmed by the High Court. You must act openly and transparently in accordance with the law. You have failed to do so in the past. Even during the hearing, you failed to do so when neither the mayor or deputy mayor fronted to give evidence about how the lease was negotiated. Unbelievable. The court received evidence from council executives, and the judge found this poorly lacking.

Councillors, you must do better than this. You are not meeting the standards of openness, transparency and community focus we require of you, or the law requires of you.

This must stop today.

And if it doesn’t, we’ll be here.

Thank you

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