It’s time to set up the Wanaka Airport Liaison Committee

Wanaka Stakeholders Group was looking into improved governance or oversight options for Wanaka Airport earlier this year when one of our members came across the existence of a Wanaka Airport Liaison Committee already in the District Plan. We read the designation, thought this was a welcome opportunity and could not understand why Council had not enabled it.

Over the last few months we have been lobbying Wanaka Community Board members and our local Councillors to support this Committee and look into what needs to be done to get it established and ensure it is “fit for purpose” and complies with the original intention and the District Plan Designation.

History of this proposed committee

Over the period 2011 to 2018 a District Plan process was run. As part of that process a number of wide-ranging changes were made which were intended to enable future development at Wanaka Airport.

Because of the significance of the changes adopted – the Independent Commissioners proposed a mechanism to ensure community interests had an opportunity to be involved. To quote directly from the relevant reports:

The 2011 commissioners proposed that the WALC was “to manage the effects of the planned growth at the airport…This committee would then become the key interface for addressing any community complaints or other issues that may arise from future growth of the Airport.”

The purpose of the WALC was reaffirmed by commissioner Paul Rogers 2018 ruling against QAC’s challenge of the WALC:

“Even if it is a cost I am persuaded …that there is value in terms of community interests being provided with a regular forum to express views and to ensure management decisions are transparent.”

The Plan therefore included the Designation that a Wanaka Airport Liaison Committee (WALC) should be established within 12 months of the Plan becoming operative. The Committee was given a relatively wide ranging remit and some flexibility as to its membership. It was to be established by the airport operator.

Despite submissions from QAC opposing it, the designation was confirmed in the 2018 Operative District Plan.

But the WALC has yet to be established.

So what next?

In the designated WALC, we see an immensely valuable and timely opportunity to:

● allow the Wanaka community some formal say in its strategic airport asset

● bring parties together, engaging Council, community and QAC.

● develop a workable vision for the future of Wanaka Airport.

There is clear support on this side of the hill for a WALC. We have written support from Wanaka residents associations, Wanaka Community Board members, a number of airport users, and several local Councillors. There has also been a huge amount of talk from Council and QAC about community consultation – so let’s walk the talk.

1. We ask the WCB and Council to ensure that prompt action is taken to enable the Wanaka Airport Liaison Committee. Further delaying the establishment of the WALC delays the potential for community input. The aim should be to have a WALC that is November-ready for appointments.

2. Those appointments should reflect the original intention of the commissioners that the committee represent the local community. 

The District Plan designation is not for a Noise Committee or an Airport Users Committee. The designation is considerably broader than either of these.  See the definition below.

District Plan Designation (from Appendix 1, ODP).

Wanaka Airport Liaison Committee

The airport operator shall establish and facilitate a Wanaka Airport Liaison Committee (WALC). The WALC shall include membership from the airport operator, Lakes Environmental Ltd [QLDC], Wanaka Airport Users Group, commercial airlines, Airways Corporation and the community. The WALC shall meet at least once every six months with a quorum of four members including at least one representative of each of the airport operator, the QLDC and the community. 

Within one year of this designation taking effect, the airport operator shall establish and maintain at its cost a Wanaka Airport Liaison Committee (“WALC”). The WALC shall include (but not be limited to) membership from:

  1. An independent chair appointed by the airport operator.
  2. The airport operator,
  3. Lakes Environmental Ltd,
  4. Wanaka Airport Users Group,
  5. Commercial Airlines,
  6. Airways Corporation, and
  7. The Wanaka Community Board.

The WALC shall meet at least once every six months with a quorum of four members including the chair and at least one representative of each of the airport operator, Lakes Environmental Ltd [QLDC] and the Wanaka Community Board. The WALC shall: 

(a) Review any complaints or issues relating to the operation of the airport, and responses by the airport operator,

(b) Assist the airport operator develop procedures to minimise adverse environmental effects on the community,

(c) Assist the airport operator to communicate and engage with the community,

(d) Develop noise management procedures for unplanned engine testing of aircraft for scheduled passenger services, and review any such occurrences,

(e) Review progress on airport development and the master plan, and

(f) Encourage parties to work together co-operatively, sharing information and making recommendations by consensus and agreement.

QAC and QLDC need to establish the Wanaka Airport Liaison Committee in line with the actual designation. QAC’s draft Statement of Intent and Ten Year Plan should reflect this. 

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