We Love Wakatipu Inc submission to 4th iteration of Queenstown Airport Corporation’s statement of intent in two years

29 October 2020

Good afternoon. I’m Cath Gilmour, chair of We Love Wakatipu.

Both Council and QAC lawyers told the High Court judge in late September that Council has “total control” over QAC through the statement of intent and its supermajority shareholding. 

This is a quantum shift in legal advice given to councillors by the mayor, council’s executive team and QAC to date, who have all stressed QAC’s purpose was profit and councillors’ role limited to tinkering on the edges.

I commend QAC’s acceptance of this on page 28, acknowledging its job is achieving shareholders’ objectives, as specified in the statement of intent.  This is indeed the law. Trouble is, you’ve not discussed, much less specified, these objectives. And QAC ignored the one you did specify in your statement of expectations, that they must operate within existing noise boundaries.

Agreeing to this SOI would be fundamentally wrong. Why?

  • You have not specified council’s strategic objectives within the SOI to define the parameters, scope and activities of QAC operations.
  • This SOI gives QAC permission to apply to expand the boundaries any time after June 30, 2023.
  • The SOI does not reflect any of the 236 pages of MartinJenkins socio-economic report except for GDP.
  • It totally ignores our community’s opposition to expansion, the threat to social licence through over-tourism and other causes of community angst.
  • It ignores the very real strategic risks that Tarras International Airport would pose for QAC operations and finances – and thus, for ratepayers.
  • It pays lip service to council’s climate emergency declaration.It still includes creating land and air footprints to facilitate future growth as a key objective.
  • Waffly, vague language in both objectives and performance targets gives no surety of desired results, or even the ability to measure them.

Promises to consult and work with Council’s spatial plan and Frankton masterplan are just lipstick on a pig.  Consultation has been ignored to date. Participants at community workshops for both plans were expressly told options that did not include airport expansion could not discussed, much less included, in either plan. So zero threat for QAC in making that commitment.

During the election, all of you but Mayor Boult and Cr Copland expressly opposed expanding the noise boundaries. You can achieve this by setting appropriate strategic objectives in the SOI. And by law, QAC must comply.

This is the fourth inadequate SOI we have had to fight in two years. We are as tired of it as you must be. There is a solution – councillors (not the joint steering group) setting strategic objectives to promote the four community well-beings, as is your legal responsibility.

We have already sent you some suggestions, but time limits me to paraphrasing just the first three:

  1. Queenstown Airport growth will be managed within existing air noise boundaries.
  2. Operations will be consistent with QLDC’s Climate Emergency Declaration.
  3. Operations will retain social licence for tourism and our community’s amenity values.

QAC director Michael Stiassny said, in direct response to my question on a recent webinar, that now is the time for Queenstown to work out the level of growth we want, but that he doubted we had the maturity to do so.

At the weekend, I ran into David Ovendale, who most of you will know as a long time Queenstown tourism promoter. He said he hoped Queenstown would take this Covid opportunity to work out how to constrain and manage tourism for the best outcomes for our community, environment, and local economy.

Neither man could be accused of being anti-tourism or antigrowth.  But they have seen the changes wrought on Queenstown Lakes by over-tourism.  They also have the foresight and capacity to understand that when the facts change, so should our approach. 

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