No ANB expansion – but QAC still thumbs its nose at Council governance

We Love Wakatipu Inc commentary, 26 April 2022

Crux published our We Love Wakatipu Inc commentary on the dismissal of QLDC governance by QAC, which you can read HERE.

Further to this article, if you would like to read the full draft SOI, HERE is the link. If you would rather a quick summary, below are some key items of note:

Over-tourism returns

QAC forecasts a return to pre-Covid 19 over-tourism levels within two years.

Some strategic pull back

Wording of ZQN’s “our strategy” section shows clearly QAC has clawed back from its previous regional hub aspirations and the dual airport strategy, which would have seen Wanaka Airport growing to the current size of ZQN within decades. With this overflow tap turned off, does this mean QAC’s new but unstated objective will be for ZQN to cater for all 7 million PAX they expect to land in the district by 2040?

ANB commitment – but over-tourism potential still exists

The exact wording of the ANB promise: “We will manage aeronautical growth at Queenstown Airport within the existing noise boundaries. Queenstown Airport can cater for organic and manageable growth in passenger and aircraft movements to and from the region in the future through a combination of advances in aircraft technology, including larger and quieter narrow-bodied jets, and effective management of its existing noise boundary capacity.”

What it doesn’t say is by how much these measures/technology will enable them to overreach their passenger target or what this means in terms of over-tourism or greenhouse gas emissions.

Carbon-Zero…but ground ops only

QAC is committed to net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 or earlier – but only for ground operations. And despite previous PR murmurings that they would, there is no commitment to measure scope two and three emissions, such as those from airplanes while using the airport, or the flights themselves.

There is no mention of the impacts of New Zealand or global climate change responses or flight shaming under financial risks, though they will complete a climate risk and opportunity assessment by the end of FY23.

Capex, concrete, and climate

Capital investment includes $14 million on runway, apron and taxiway in FY24. Will this be put through QLDC’s Climate and Biodiversity Plan climate impact lens?

Tarras – joint venture?

Interesting choice of new wording for how it’s going to fight Christchurch Airport’s proposed Tarras international airport: “QAC’s strategic planning will consider Christchurch International Airport Ltd’s (CIAL) proposal to plan and seek approval for a new international wide body jet capable airport with direct long haul links to Asia and the Americas, with the intention of safeguarding the operational and financial position of the company within the frameworks of the Commerce Act.” 

The proposed Tarras Airport could have a runway long enough to take wide bodied jets, which ZQN never can. CIAL has announced no business plan or target markets. They have said wide bodied jets were more greenhouse gas efficient and could carry Central Otago’s horticultural freight, which ZQN’s planes can’t. 

And, by the way, local councils can engage in joint undertakings and joint or cooperative activities (s12 of the LGA), if in the best interests of their communities.  Now there’s a radical thought.

Constitutional review nixed – but should it have been?

Another related issue.  One of the councillor amendments that failed at the February QLDC meeting was that Council should review the QAC Constitution. Council’s executive team pushed back at that meeting, saying QAC had reviewed it last year and found it “fit for purpose,” and a legal review would cost a lot.

However, Mike Theelen made that judgement on his own and councillors had not seen QAC’s review. And yet, under the LGA, the contents of the QAC Constitution are vital. Council can only require change to the SOI (and therefore ensure that QAC’s objectives meet council’s objectives for our community’s economic, environmental, social and community well-being) if it’s consistent with QAC’s Constitution. So why are councillors so forcefully discouraged from ensuring QAC’s Constitution fits community needs, not just those of directors unaccountable to and largely divorced from the community they are meant to serve?

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