Official Information Request re Airport Growth Impact Assessment details

Getting no or inadequate responses to queries made of council spokespeople through normal channels, We Love Wakatipu sent an official information request to the Mayor and CEO on December 19, 2019.  You can read the CEO’s response below and make your own judgements on whether it meets the standards of transparency we should expect from our local council.

But we know from the one councillor prepared to respond as fully as she could, Niki Gladding, that councillors were excluded from drafting the assessments’ Terms of Reference – which determine what information is gathered, from whom and for what purpose – and that they don’t know answers to any of the other questions either.

Is that democracy, when even our elected representatives can’t answer fundamental questions about how the decision-making process on our community’s most critical, long term issue is going to work?

<by email 19/12/19>

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

The following is Mike Theelen’s response.

<by email 14/1/20>

Hi cath

Thanks for your email on behalf of We Love Wakatipu Inc. Soc.

 We have been working through the TOR for the EIA/SIA assessments with the consultants. Details, processes and timings of the assessments, spatial plan and draft SOI will all be made publicly available once they are confirmed, and public announcements will be made at an appropriate time. When these are published I will request that the communications team include the society in their circulation. The Steering Group model for the SOI is simply part of facilitating earlier dialogue between the Council and the company in a practical manner . All councillors will be part of considering the draft SOI.

 Regarding the joint agreement referred to from the 12 December meeting, this was made available on Friday 13 December via the QLDC website alongside the Statement of Intent. You can find it here: https://www.qldc.govt.nz/services/airports/

 Finally, Councillors are not being “excluded” from the processes relating to the economic and social impact assessments. You will be aware the elected members’ role to set direction and policy, and that of officers to implement these. This is simply that differentiation of roles in practice, and consistent in the way projects are established

Regards mike

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