Incumbent councillors explain (or don’t) their airport governance votes this past term
We Love Wakatipu Inc candidate survey and commentary, 20 September 2022
We invited the four incumbent Wakatipu councillors campaigning for your vote in 2022 to explain their voting record over the past three-year term. We publish their responses below, followed by our analysis based on three years’ close observation. We haven’t covered Wānaka’s Cr Smith, because that’s outside our purview, but we thoroughly endorse his candidature. He has been an effective supporter of communities on both sides of the Crown Range in his active advocacy for stronger airport governance and stopping airport noise expansion.
Responses printed in order of receipt.
Don’t have the time to write my whole history, but rest assured that I have voted in the way I have answered this survey, for the community and We Love Wakatipu has been witness to that.
I have been the key advocate for a Governance manual specific to our CCTO for the reason that the SOE and SOI exacerbate confusion in process and outcomes and create year on year, unresolved issues. The processes of the SOE and SOI do not safeguard long term changes in the way that a governance manual would address. It is designed to help council elected members to operate effectively in their roles and to clarify their responsibilities. It also provides guidance to the chief executives, senior leaders and staff of CCTOs and the council. It offers an accountability framework.
The point of this is to have systemic improvement in core competencies for our elected members and staff of the CCO. It enables stronger collaboration between the two parties. We need more accountability measures and better information and training for new councillors, this manual would achieve that. Staff are still in the process of ‘exploring’ the need for this.
WLW comment: Cr Whitehead has been an articulate and strong supporter of strengthening council’s governance of QAC, clearly understands its legal powers to do so and has actively promoted this through moving strategic resolutions. Strong supporter of our communities’ and environment’s interests since becoming a councillor in last year’s by-election.
I’ve always voted in line with the answers provided above. My position has always been that QAC is a council-controlled company owned by the ratepayers and as such QLDC should be actively protecting its investment and ensuring that QAC’s activities deliver community wellbeing.
WLW comment: Cr Gladding has been one of three councillors who have staunchly and effectively advocated for stopping ZQN’s air noise boundary expansion and improved governance of QAC during the past term. A primary initiator of major changes to the February 2022 statement of expectation, which would have substantially improved QLDC governance of the airport if carried through to QAC’s statement of intent. Unfortunately, QAC flagrantly flouted several of council’s explicit instructions and a majority of councillors subsequently decided that was okay.
Cr Ferguson offered no comment on his voting record regarding QAC.
WLW comment: Cr Ferguson’s voting record on stopping ANB expansion and strengthening council’s airport governance has been patchy, tending to follow Mayor Boult’s direction, and his contribution to debate has been minimal.
Examples of Cr Ferguson’s public voting record include:
February 3, 2022: Cr Ferguson voted against an amendment to the draft statement of expectations that QLDC would review the QAC constitution.
June 30, 2021: Cr Ferguson said not one word except for ‘aye’. Which meant he okayed, without question or comment, a Statement of Intent that allowed QAC to continue planning expansion of QAC’s ANB and to apply for consent any time after June 30, 2024. And to forego the right of community consultation and councillor sign off of the vitally important Airport Master Plan and 10-year Strategic Plan.
October 29, 2020: Cr Ferguson admitted “I have found I have questioned myself whether I have the capacity to continue to soak up the avalanche of emails and documents and various advice, guidance and reading to make another call on another QAC SOI. But that’s our job.” WLW agrees, but we consider this response inadequate for a councillor who has had nine years’ experience with the process.
I am a current councillor; I have voted in favour of all Statements of Intent. I stood for Council to halt noise boundary expansion and maintain the presence of the airport in Frankton. Each SOI from 2020 onwards had an explicit statement that Noise boundary expansion would not happen during the time of the SOI. The last SOI extended that to 10 years. I have avoided the tedious arguments around the periphery and concentrated on delivering on my word that the noise boundaries will not expand and the Airport is staying put. Three years later, that is precisely the case.
WLW comment: Technically correct on the SOI vote, but a false narrative of “tedious arguments around the periphery” in what WLW judges the most damaging airport voting record of current councillors. Cr Lewers consistently opposed other councillors’ moves to strengthen council’s QAC governance, usually alongside Mayor Boult but sometimes as a lone voice. He was a member of the QAC-QLDC steering group, in charge of guiding the two entities through the governance process each year. This put him in a position of strength to advocate for the SOI to include a QLDC strategic objective that QAC must continue to operate within the existing ANB – not just for the three years of the SOI. By law, QAC would then have been required to comply. He did not. This year’s draft SOE did not even require QAC to operate within its existing ANB, just asked for surety as to whether it would. This is despite QAC CEO Glen Sowry having already publicly committed to not doing so over the next decade.
Examples of Cr Lewers’ public voting record include:
June 30, 2022: Cr Lewers was one of four councillors who made no comment throughout the discussion. He then voted to give QAC control of Queenstown Airport’s future direction, by agreeing they could ignore councillors’ thrice expressed instruction requiring Council approval of the 10-year Strategic Plan and Airport Master Plan.
February 3, 2022: Cr Lewers either opposed or abstained on a raft of other councillors’ amendments aimed at strengthening council governance of the airport, compared to the draft SOE his group put forward. Among measures he did not support: (a) That both strategic and master plans be formally agreed by full council before implementation and that the scope of both plans must be clearly outlined in the SOI. (b) Requiring QLDC-led consultation on these plans. (c) Limiting QAC’s SOI scope to Queenstown Airport (after the High Court overturned council’s illegal QAC lease of Wanaka Airport). These are not “tedious arguments around the periphery,” as he describes, but central to QLDC’s mandated governance role.
June 30, 2021: Cr Lewers voted for an SOI that allowed QAC to continue planning expansion of QAC’s noise boundary and to apply for consent any time after June 30, 2024. And to forego the right of community consultation and councillor sign-off of the vitally important Airport Master Plan and 10-year Strategic Plan.
January 28, 2021: Cr Lewers voted against a raft of amendments put forward by Crs Shaw and Gladding, including management and planning for Queenstown Airport within the existing ANBs and of Wānaka Airport to exclude jets, and that any changes to either of these principles must be subject to robust council-led consultation with the community directly affected.
April 23, 2020: Cr Lewers voted to accept an SOI made obsolete by Covid 19’s border closures, described by Cr Shaw as “a dereliction of duty”. This after a summary of over 80 submissions was presented to the meeting, the vast majority of which were opposed to QLDC agreeing to the airport’s SOI.