Listen to your community and your CCTO – no to airport noise expansion

We Love Wakatipu Inc submission to QLDC zoom meeting, 3 February 2022

Good afternoon, Mayor Boult and councillors,

I hope you all had a restful break.

Thank you for the opportunity to speak on behalf of We Love Wakatipu.

I’d like to remind you that every consultation since 2018 has heard over 90% of respondents oppose Air Noise Boundary expansion at Queenstown Airport.

The Chamber of Commerce, many local businesses and our community associations also joined forces to oppose expansion – Councillor Lewers was their spokesperson.

And late last year, QAC’s new CEO, Glen Sowry, stated that he and the QAC board agreed they neither needed nor wanted to expand the ANBs in their 10-year strategic plan. 

Demand would not require it – loss of social licence ruled against it. And quieter, bigger planes will bring more people, more quietly in future decades.

So, it’s hard to understand why your draft SOE leaves the door open to more airport noise – with all the downstream ramifications of incipient over-tourism that our community disliked pre-Covid and has repeatedly stated we want no more of.

This SOE is the ideal opportunity for you to align QAC’s strategic direction with our community’s wellbeing and QAC’s own stated intent.

Under the Local Government Act, your two roles are to enable local democracy and promote our community’s social, environmental, economic and cultural wellbeing.

Our community has clearly indicated that allowing more airport noise would negate both of these goals.

As your own and QAC’s lawyers told the High Court during the Judicial Review that overturned your illegal lease of Wanaka Airport, the SOI gives council “ultimate control” over QAC.

Because under the Act, QAC’s role as a CCTO (council-controlled trading organisation) is to achieve council’s objectives, both commercial and non-commercial, as contained in the SOI. 

This draft SOE kickstarts the SOI process and it should therefore outline council’s objectives for QAC to achieve.

Unfortunately, this draft document yet again abandons this vital governance step and hands control of the reins to QAC.

This is particularly galling within the context of council having agreed last year that QAC could develop their strategic and master plans largely out of reach of your governance, and out of sight of our community.

Even more so because, compared to the 2021 SOE, this draft SOE hugely reduces required commitments from QAC to achieve meaningful input from both council and community.

I sent you all an email yesterday outlining changes to the draft SOE that we believe necessary for you to achieve your legally mandated responsibilities of QAC governance. To reiterate:

  1. Give clear strategic direction that ANBs will not be expanded in QAC’s 10-year plan.
  2. Require specific commitments from QAC to meaningful Council input and community consultation, as per the 2021 SOE.
  3. Remove reference to growth of shareholder value – this is not a legal requirement, and by its nature it undermines your ability to set other strategic objectives that would better achieve council’s mandate.
  4. Remove the gratuitous reference to wide-bodied jets.  ZQN’s runway is too short and cannot be extended, so there is no threat of their use.  There has been zero community consultation on their acceptability. So you have no mandate for this statement, which appears designed purely to justify political opposition to the proposed Tarras Airport, on a false community imperative.

As always, thanks for listening.

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