Can we trust an opaque process that has started without us?

Last August, Mayor Jim Boult announced that he had told QAC they could not progress expansion plans until after social and economic impact assessments had been done.

Having heard nothing since, We Love Wakatipu Inc asked council’s media man for details on the consultation process and parameters on November 13. We were told there would be “wide engagement with the community and more targeted stakeholder engagement.” Hmmm, helpful.  We asked for a more detailed response on November 28. Zilch received.

On December 20, we wrote the email below to Mayor Jim Boult and council CEO Mike Theelen and copied in the media man again. Again, no response.  We think these are important questions for us all to know the answers to.

While neither we nor the media have been informed about how the community can have meaningful input into these assessments, we know that consultation quietly started with the “key stakeholders” before Christmas. 

But whose stake in the multiple ramifications of proposed noise boundary expansion is key? The community who live here and pay the downstream costs? Or the businesses who extract the value?

And how much can we trust a process where five months after it was announced – and just two months before the results are meant to have informed the airport’s statement of intent – council has still not made public how they will consult our community?

Nor released the terms of reference – which Councillors have had no input to – that will determine the impact assessments’ results. In the interests of helping inform our community’s discussion, we look forward to sharing their response to our email below.

To Mayor Jim Boult and CEO Mike Theelen

by email 20 Dec 2019

Dear Jim and Mike,

On behalf of We Love Wakatipu Incorporated Society, I outline some questions below that we would appreciate your response on, please.  Several I have asked before and I hope you are now able to answer them.

We understand councillors have been told they cannot have input to the Terms of Reference for the MartinJenkins airport economic and social impact assessments. These are critical in determining what information is gathered, on what management options, from whom and for what objectives.

  • If this is still the case, can you please outline the legislative grounds for preventing our representatives from ensuring these assessments provide the information and objective analysis they need for their airport governance decisions?
  • If councillors are still excluded, can you please outline what the process has been for designing and deciding the ToR, who has been involved and the level of councillor oversight and approval once they have been drafted?
  • When will these Terms of Reference be made public? As the studies are being funded by ratepayers, we assume that the community has the right to understand the bases on which these assessments are being made.
  • Can you please identify who within MartinJenkins has the appropriate environmental qualifications/credentials/experience to assess the environmental impact of different options?
  • A descriptor of the environmental aspect of these assessments has not yet been made public (beyond the single line reference in the RFP). When will it be please?
  • The spatial plan, social and economic impact assessments and Queenstown Airport Corporation’s statement of intent are all obviously integrally related. Can you please outline your plan for the timing of these separate pieces of work – and how they are going to be integrated? So far, we have no idea on any of these except for the end of March deadline for the draft SOI.  We do note that mention was made in yesterday’s newspaper article that the assessments’ deadline might move out from March.
  • Council agreed to the August SOI at its December 12 meeting, subject to a joint agreement that has so far not been made public.  I asked for this to be made public during public forum at this meeting. Can you please let us know when it will be, through what channel? Or under what grounds it will not be?
  • As part of this agreement, Council set up a joint QLDC – QAC steering group to progress the 2020 SOI. We note that, under section 59.1 of the LGA, the principal objective of a council -controlled organisation is (as the first listed among four) is to “achieve the objectives of its shareholders, both commercial and non-commercial, as specified in the statement of intent”. Obviously, these strategic objectives are for councillors to decide – not the joint steering group. Can you please outline the process and timing for councillors to discuss and agree to these objectives, prior to the joint steering group working on how to achieve them? 

We look forward to hearing back from you soon so that we can have a better understanding of the way forward.   We also look forward to collaborating with you as Council and the community work through the above processes.

All the best to you both for a Merry Christmas and great 2020 and thank you for your work for our community over the past year.  

Kind regards.

Cath Gilmour

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