QAC’s 10-year draft Strategic Plan

WLW commentary plus link to the plan, 6 October 2022

QAC’s Strategic Plan was released with little fanfare late last month. With no community consultation or councillor input and a total lack of critical analysis from media about QAC’s blatant disregard of council governance.

You might remember that in February, councillors unanimously amended the executive team’s weak statement of expectations to insist this plan be formally approved by Council prior to implementation and that consultation on it be council led.

QAC duly ignored both requirements in its resultant statement of intent. And then the majority of councillors (but for Crs Gladding, Smith, Whitehead and Shaw) dutifully handed over the reins.

The three councillors standing for re-election who have consistently pushed for stronger community governance have all expressed their dissatisfaction with the Strategic Plan process and result. For more details, see our previous post.

Some brief notes:

  • There was no councillor input to the Strategic Plan. The joint QAC-QLDC steering group did not even meet this year. The first our political representatives saw it was August 15. There was an online workshop with two QAC representatives on August 30. One of whom said note would be taken of councillor comment. It wasn’t.
  • This despite the 2022 SOI committing that “QAC will proactively engage with shareholders on its development”. A zoom meeting on a finalised document, with responses ignored, does not constitute proactive engagement.
  • The Strategic Plan’s wording is a weak commitment to non-expansion. QAC “plan to meet demand for air travel into the Southern Lakes region over the next 10 years without seeking to expand existing noise boundaries.”  Why must Queenstown’s community commit to servicing the whole region’s air travel demand? What happens if QAC can’t meet this demand? And this wording still allows QAC to continue to plan for expansion and all its downstream ramifications…
  • At least now QAC is acknowledging that A320 and A321 NEOs substantially increase the capacity of the ANB over the older planes.  You might remember WLW had to force QAC through Official Information Act requests to acknowledge they had not factored the much quieter and bigger planes into their original ANB expansion model.
  • They say this capacity increase could mean 3.5 million people through the airport by 2032. They don’t enumerate the increase possible through their planned airplane slot coordination programme, so ZQN could be considerably busier than that. So the current airport terminal will become their main growth constraint. Hence the Airport Master Plan…
  • To their credit, QAC assume a lower visitor growth rate than QLDC does in its planning, but this still sees a doubling of 2023’s anticipated 1.6 million, to 3.2 million travellers through the airport by 2032. (These figures being a total of arrivals and departures.)
  • We agree with Cr Gladding, Whitehead and Smith’s concerns about the process and some of the key assumptions the plan is based on. Including the failure to seriously address climate change and the risks this and policies/behaviour changes arising from it will pose.

Airport Master Plan

At the same time as the Strategic Plan was released, QAC released information about community feedback sessions on its proposed Airport Master Plan. This will provide a long-term blueprint for ZQN’s future, including land use planning and development intent of the airport site.

We hope we will have cause to celebrate meaningful, continued and timely community and council input when the Master Plan is delivered to QLDC in another couple of years. WLW took part in one of the sessions and we, like other participants, were invited to send in any further feedback. So do please feel free to contact us if you would like us to do so on your behalf. Fuller community consultation is expected next year, when the draft is produced.

We hope the graphic on the SOI, page 21, which states that “final Master Plan endorsed by shareholder” in 2024 is a sincere statement of commitment to get QLDC’s formal agreement. Because the actual wording of the SOI’s text does not require endorsement, just says they will “seek” it.  Legally, this is a far weaker commitment.

And we’ve already seen what QAC meant with its SOI promise of “active councillor involvement” with the Strategic Plan, which is by far the more critical document for our community, environment and economy.

We strongly urge the new council to get a much stronger understanding of their airport governance role and responsibility.  And to then apply it. The CCTO manual proposed by Cr Whitehead – which, mysteriously, seems to have stalled in council’s backroom corridors – would help on this front.

We look forward to the election of a new council with a majority prepared to do the required hard work, apply critical thinking to inadequate official advice, and ensure all their airport governance decisions are based on our communities’ long-term best interests. 

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