A deeper dive into Mayor Boult’s August 8 speech

Almost a year after the community spoke very clearly, with 92.5% of over 1500 submissions in opposition to Queenstown Airport Corporation’s air noise boundary expansion plans, Mayor Jim Boult made a scripted speech before QLDC’s August 8 meeting, announcing a “fresh approach” on future airport development.

This was that Council was going to push pause on expansion at both Queenstown and Wanaka Airports until they understood the economic and social impacts of airport growth on our communities. 

The Wanaka Stakeholders Group has made a detailed analysis and response to Mr Boult’s speech that is worth reading.  Their main points, in summary, are:

  • If this is a commitment to a community led, consultative and transparent approach to airport management, fantastic! (So far, not the case.)
  • Terms of reference for both the social and economic impact assessments must be based on community input, broad, objective and transparent – not just aimed at justifying QAC’s dual airport strategy. (So far, not the case.)
  • These studies must be independent and robust. (No evidence to date.)
  • Where is the environmental impact analysis that QLDC’s recent declaration of a Climate Change Emergency would suggest necessary? (There is none.)
  • The definition of “managed growth” is open to conjecture, especially in a community where over-tourism is a major concern.
  • That social licence for tourism relies on credibility and trust with council’s constituents, currently lacking.
  • The reference to the “clear stress, anxiety, dissent and downright vitriol that this issue is creating in both Queenstown and Wanaka” is an inaccurate and patronising description of the concerns raised by our communities. “We have a different view: impassioned pleas from your constituents for our elected representatives to do what is right, and indeed what was required of you by law…”

Council had already had a year to listen and respond to the community’s unequivocal feedback.  Instead, two months before the election, the Mayor said he would be “guided” by community feedback mediated through outside consultants using unknown methodology, objectives, parameters and analysis.

Subsequent to this, Council announced on November 13 that consultants MartinJenkins had been appointed to provide the economic and social impact assessments.

And by late January 2020, less than six weeks before QAC’s draft statement of intent was to be presented for council agreement, neither councillors nor community yet knew how consultant MartinJenkins would gather the information, from whom and to meet what objectives. Councillors had been allowed no input. Nor had anyone in the community – apart from tourism industry leaders – been consulted or even spoken with.

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