Jim Boult’s peppered inbox

Current mayor Jim Boult keeps on discounting broad-based community concerns about Queenstown and Wanaka airports with claims that some people speaking with him support expansion and that his inbox is “peppered” with similar support.

But such unsubstantiated counter-claims should have no role in council policy making. 

These unseen communications from unknown people are not equal to the well canvassed community concerns. In the same way that a handful of climate change science deniers do not counterbalance the tens of thousands of scientists contributing to the IPCC consensus.

Worse, the weight Mr Boult publically gives these invisible personal messages is wrong. 

It reinforces the impression that the private influence of those with the ear of the “benign dictator” can control the direction of our community. This may work in private enterprise where the owners of business rightly call the shots, but it has no place for those who seek to represent our community in local government. 

The community voice is well known.

In Queenstown, the 92.5% opposition to expanded noise boundaries is not the “outlyers” Mr Boult has worked to circumvent. It came from QAC’s own formal public consultation, which it led and controlled. This included extensive media coverage, community workshops and public meetings led by QAC, all informed by QAC’s own reports, Masterplan documents, 14 fact sheets, lists of frequently asked questions, online chat forum, GIS platform and their dedicated website accessed 5,400 times.

After all this, QAC received only 53 submissions in support, while 1,337 submittors were opposed.

Several of the opposing submitters, such the Kelvin Peninsula and Frankton community associations, represented large communities, with the FCA including two petitions totalling 1,447 signatures.

Also, Queenstown Stakeholders Group wrote in opposition. They represented 24 of our most prominent businesses, plus the Chamber of Commerce, Destination Queenstown and Downtown Queenstown, and also all seven Wakatipu community associations.

The Mitchell Daysh report on this consultation noted that the “level of engagement is significantly higher than other recent high profile council projects”.

In Wanaka, the 3,000+ strong Wanaka Stakeholders Group represents the largest group ever formed in the area around a single issue. It operates an open, transparent and respectful public forum where it asks serious, well-considered questions. Its membership is about to eclipse the total votes cast in the Wanaka Ward elections of 2016.

Also, the recent independent Crux survey showed over 80% of Queenstown respondents opposed expansion of ZQN – or supported its relocation – and a majority against jets in Wanaka. 

Yet Mr Boult regularly refers to his peppered inbox and private conversations as an apparent counter balance to this unequivocal evidence of majority public opposition. 

This is wrong. The LGA enshrines equality with one vote per person and tasks council to use democratic decision making on behalf of communities to meet the current and future needs of communities. The concerns and aspirations for this district of a person renting in Hawea and working for the minimum wage are equal to, not less than, those with the ear of Mr Boult.

With these issues discussed in public now for more than a year there has been ample opportunity for alternative views to be put forward into the public domain. That’s where they belong in our democratic process.  If their voices are worth being heard by the Mayor, then surely we as a community deserve to hear them also?  

QAC received just 3.7% of submissions in support of airport expansion in Queenstown.  

The proponents for growth are not the silent majority mayor Boult would have us believe.

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