Community needs and expectations evolve, says QAC director Simon Flood – suggesting no role for long-term strategic direction from Council re-ANBs

21 Nov 2020

We Love Wakatipu Inc commentary re-QAC director Simon Flood’s response to councillor’s question, November 20, 2020

A seriously pertinent governance question was asked of QAC director Simon Flood at the October 29 meeting by Cr Niki Gladding.  His response? You judge.

Niki Gladding: Is it consistent to temporarily put a hold on ANB expansion at ZQN and growth plans at Wanaka within an SOI that includes key objectives planning for growth of air and land footprints and meeting demand? Can’t understand why the company hasn’t put together an SOI in which the nature and scope of activities is aligned with what you say will do? 

Simon Flood: The reality is that if you look at Queenstown now, three months ago, or in another three months, it is going to be very different in terms of expectations. The SOI is our best guess/forecast of how the situation is going to evolve. We don’t need expansion now because the planes aren’t there. But the needs of the community evolve as the community evolves. It would be extremely brave of anyone, either pro or against the airport, to set in concrete today when we are in a period of extraordinary flux the rules that will apply for ever and a day going forward. I think the best thing you can do is lay out how you can see it. Let’s be brutal about this, we make money out of people landing at the airport and for the foreseeable future, we won’t be making as much. So it would not be responsible to commit to spending money on, for instance, developing a second airport when we don’t need it at the moment. The SOI is very consistent in saying how we see things going out to June 2023 – but we don’t know what happens after that, and what does happen after that, depends on consultation.

We Love Wakatipu Inc thoughts on that: In other words, zero commitment to what both council and community have quite clearly demanded – for QAC to operate within its air noise boundaries. The reasons our community have so strongly opposed expansion for over two years now don’t disappear with Covid or recovery from it. The impacts on our community of over-tourism, excessive noise, loss of strategic control and so on don’t “evolve” in three, six, 12 or 120 months. And QAC’s narrative continues to studiously and silently ignore the fact they can easily reach their stated target PAX numbers just by insisting airlines fly the bigger, quieter A321s already in use.

From a governance perspective, the whole point of the statement of intent is for council to set the strategic objectives it wants QAC to operate within. Setting these strategic paradigms is the legislated right and responsibility of our councillors and mayor. Their legal role is to ensure the four well-beings of our community, not profits of airlines, QAC or the big “bums on seats” tourism companies whose profits largely go out of Queenstown Lakes.

And consultation? We have had lots of it and it has all been ignored to date – by QAC, QLDC executive team, the mayor and the majority of our councillors.  Despite the mayor and our councillors having “total control,” as their and QAC’s lawyers have told the High Court, of QAC operations through the statement of intent.  Heck, they even put this as an objective in their statement of expectations for the SOI. So the question remains – as asked by Cr Gladding – how come the SOI doesn’t reflect this? 

Simon Flood’s response offers a hint – QAC has zero plan of being controlled, as they should be by law, by Council in the best interests of our community.  And the majority of councillors, and certainly our mayor, seem content to ignore their power to exert this control, as is their legislated governance role, in favour of big business demands.

And yes, in case you were wondering – if QAC succeeds in slowly grinding us down and pushing through expansion of the ANB, this means they would be able to land millions more passengers than they claim they are targeting.  And the mayor, councillors and their executive team would have passed up their – our – one opportunity to control this.

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