WLW letter to MartinJenkins re consultation concerns

Flying over Lake Wakatipu

We Love Wakatipu Inc reiterated the serious concerns about the validity of the MartinJenkins economic and social impact assessments raised by Wanaka Stakeholders Group’s letter this week, and added our own in the email below to principal consultant Jason Leung-Wai on Friday. We will share Jason’s response.

<by email, 14 Feb 2020>

Dear Jason,       

As chair of We Love Wakatipu Inc, I write in support of comments made by Wanaka Stakeholders Group chair Mike Ross, re their concerns about the process and validity of the social and economic impact assessments of airport growth that QLDC has commissioned from MartinJenkins.

Many of our concerns are already on record – in media, our website and Facebook page and so hopefully familiar to you and your associates.  We are encouraging our community to take part in this process, despite what we believe are fundamental flaws in both this and council’s governance of QAC, because this now appears our only chance to be heard before we all get mired in the RMA.

We reiterate the points ably made by WSG in their February 10 email.  And in the hope that our community’s voice can be fully heard by our councillors and mayor, we raise the following:

  • MartinJenkins has conducted a literature review.  To be full, this must include the submissions our Wakatipu community made in winter 2018 to QAC’s air noise boundary expansion plans.  There were more than 1500, some substantial and representing hundreds of residents.  92.5% of these were in opposition to QAC’s plans.  Many people now believe (wrongly) that because QAC responded to this clear community voice by swivelling their attention to Wanaka, the current ANB will be respected.  To not include analysis of these submissions would be grossly unfair to the hundreds of people who believe that they have already had their say and been listened to.  This literature review should also include the letter sent by Queenstown Stakeholders Group to council on October 3, 2018, which quite clearly set out the shared concerns of all Wakatipu community associations, DQ, Chamber of Commerce, Downtown Queenstown and more than 20 large businesses.
  • Adequate, independent and objective information on the impacts of all four scenarios must be made available in time to enable our community to respond in a considered manner.  This contextual information needs to be seen and digested prior to clicking on the survey button or turning up at the focus group.  This material must be widely distributed and available, in a timely fashion, to maximise the opportunity for informed community response.
  • WLW asked QLDC CEO Mike Theelen for the qualifications and experience of the MJ staff who would be in charge of the environmental impact part of these assessments and an explanation of how this would be achieved.  To date, 1.5 months later, we have had no response to either question.  This does not engender trust in either expertise or process. Perhaps MJ could rectify this.
  • In the economic analysis, consideration must be given to both dividend stream expectations and capex/opex as a result of the different options over the time period concerned (to 2045).  We have been told by councillors that the current LTP does not include allowance for the infrastructure required to meet the demand created by QAC’s plans.  And the same LTP assumes a QAC dividend income stream of $71million over the 10 years of the plan.  QAC has estimated its Wanaka development spend at $300-400 million.  Plus $100 million-odd to buy Porters’ land.  Plus an unspecified amount to build a new ZQN terminal if capacity is allowed to go above 3.2 million PAX.  There’s been no discussion of how QAC will both fund this development and maintain a dividend considerably above that of recent times.
  • Further to this, there needs to be strong analysis of debt funding options and their possible ramifications.  Options would seem to be council funding (with required infrastructure spend to meet airport demand, QLDC would already likely be maxing its debt parameters); bank debt (one of QAC’s three bank debt providers is the Bank of China – what are the possible implications of this, in terms of political control should debt servicing become problematic);  or selling more shares (thus losing the control that council actually has, should it choose to use it,  as 75.01% shareholder).  What are the political and community ramifications of each of these financial tools, under the different scenarios?
  • Proper analysis of the existing capacity of the ANB and impacts of noise reducing technology has not figured in any of QAC’s documentation.  But there is still capacity for 800,000 more PAX within the existing ANB, using existing planes.  QAC could double that by insisting Air NZ switched to A321s from A320s, as Jetstar is planning to do this year, with a resultant 25% capacity increase.  European and American air industries are already developing aircraft body and engine technology to reduce airport noise by 75%.  Together, these add substantially to the existing ANB – but so far, this has been ignored by both council and QAC.  So inevitable technology/capacity improvement and smart management by QAC of the existing ANB could save money, retain social licence and still allow substantial tourism growth, should that be what is demanded by QLDC’s legal mandate to ensure its community’s four wellbeings.
  • Conversely, the hugely greater capacity these unacknowledged airplane capacity and technology developments would give an expanded ANB must be robustly analysed.  Council and community have no other sure method of control over QAC’s growth aspirations than the ANB.  If A320s and existing air noise technology would allow 5.1million PAX under QAC’s preferred expansion plan – how high could that number actually go with these capacity and technology improvements factored in?  These figures must be included under the ‘dual airport growth’ strategy to give a realistic picture of potential outcomes.

We Love Wakatipu Inc looks forward to hearing how you might alleviate these concernsre and to participating in the resultant process.

Yours sincerely,

Cath Gilmour,
We Love Wakatipu Inc chair

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