YAY – one small step towards council control of QAC

We Love Wakatipu Inc commentary, 4 December 2020

Great to hear from Cr Niamh Shaw, in response to our recent Facebook post, that full council will workshop their 2021 statement of expectations for QAC before Christmas.

It is this SOE that is meant to give strategic direction to the airport corp’s statement of intent (SOI).  And in turn, the SOI is supposed to give QLDC “total control” of QAC operations (quoting the QAC and QLDC lawyers at High Court late September, contrary to advice they have given councillors in every prior agenda…but we’re thrilled they are finally agreeing to our advice of the last two years).

At council’s October 29 meeting, Cr Shaw pushed against the joint QAC/QLDC steering group retaining control over the SOE.  She and other councillors spoke of the lack of communications between this group (four QAC board and executive team members plus Jim Boult, Penny Clark, Quentin Smith and Glyn Lewers) and the rest of the “team”.

She shouldn’t have had to. Setting strategic direction is councillors’ job.  Having QAC at the table while discussing how QLDC should control QAC operations to ensure they meet council’s objectives for community well-being is a bit like having the fox in co-charge of the henhouse.

We have elsewhere suggested a “strategic direction starter pack”.  We look forward to seeing at least some of adopted. It is nearly Christmas after all :-).

We would be more confident of that if council’s website showed the 2020 SOE accurately. Instead, it misses out the vital amendment successfully pushed through by Cr John MacDonald – that QAC must operate within the air noise boundaries

So maybe that is why the fourth SOI in two years, agreed to by the majority of councillors in October, still allows QAC to push the boundary, just not ‘til July 1, 2023.  That’s not a big concession from QAC – it’s not exactly going to be needed before then. 

But it’s easier, perhaps, to keep pushing the process while people are focused elsewhere, panicked about the economy and there aren’t so many planes creating the excessive noise and other downstream impacts we were all railing against.

We asked council’s PR man and Cr MacDonald to explain how come the adopted SOE was not on the website, as legally required. We haven’t heard back from the PR man as yet, but Cr MacDonald’s response was that there is “No point directing the past, working on the future now”.

Which is fine – and good news that they are. Hopefully with community well-being and feedback front of mind. 

But it’s concerning that the background admin and processes on which good governance depends are so sloppy that no one bothered to update such a vital and strategic change to the SOE. 

And it seems, no one else noticed, despite the fact that the two SOIs based on it were so blatantly in contravention of this clear direction given by councillors, against the strong pushback of the mayor, who (with absolutely zero legal foundation) warned that Auckland Airport could take them to court for doing so. Within a day, they had denied that they would even think of doing so.

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