‘We will hold you to account’ – protestors [Wanaka App, 30/04/21]

A crowd of around 30 people attended a rally in Wanaka yesterday (Thursday 29 April) following the High Court’s decision to set aside the Wanaka Airport lease.

Rally participants stood quietly with placards, some of which thanked the Wanaka Stakeholders Group (WSG) for taking action against airport development, while others sought an apology from Queenstown Lakes District Council (QLDC) for mishandling the consultation process. Some offered reminders of the impact of growth on climate change.

Some of the people who attended the rally, which took place outside the Lake Wānaka Centre minutes before a full council meeting, also went on to address councillors at the meeting’s public forum, demanding transparency and accountability.

Mayor Jim Boult, deputy mayor Calum MacLeod and councillors mingled with rally participants, engaging in conversation on issues surrounding the future of Wanaka Airport.

WSG spokesperson Mark Sinclair took the microphone at the public forum to say that since the unlawful lease has been set aside, “the council, not the QAC, must start again and consult openly and transparently on any plans for Wanaka Airport”.

Rally participants outside the Lake Wānaka Centre.

Council had spent precious time and money defending the lease, Mark said, adding: “We will hold you to account and we will not go away.”

He asked councillors to focus on community issues such as “creaking infrastructure” rather than an expansion of the Wanaka Airport to make it jet capable.

Albert Town Community Association secretary Heather Thorne said the High Court decision suggested QLDC and councillors were out of touch with their communities.

“How can it be possible that thousands of residents and business owners have had to collectively come together to fight for the right to be consulted, to be listened to, to exercise their democratic right… How are you going to regain the trust of the residents of the Upper Clutha?”

Heather suggested a referendum on the future of the Wanaka Airport and its potential for expansion for Upper Clutha residents.

And Luggate Community Association (LCA) chair David Hawkins also spoke at the public forum in support of the High Court decision.

He said the majority of LCA members said they were against the QLDC’s proposed dual airport scenario, which included the development of the Wanaka airport for jets, and the proposed Tarras Airport as both options were designed to encourage mass tourism.

Read this in full here.

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