WLW commentary, 7 December 2022

Auckland Council’s new Mayor Wayne Brown has proposed selling the council’s 18% stake in Auckland International Airport (AIA) to help address a potential $295 million budget shortfall.

A controversial proposal on many fronts – but not nearly so controversial as it would be if Queenstown Lakes District Council were to suggest the same.

Because here, it would mean a total loss of control of Queenstown Airport Corporation and of our airports, as well as the loss of a significant asset and dividend stream.

Auckland Council already has no control over Auckland International Airport nor a seat on the AIA board because it has only a minor shareholding.

But QLDC’s supermajority holding (75.01%) gives it the legal right to instruct Queenstown Airport Corporation as to its strategic objectives, within the parameters of the Local Government Act – and QAC must comply.  And it must approve QAC board appointments.

Both QAC and QLDC legal counsel at the High Court hearing, which overturned QLDC’s illegal 100-year lease of Wānaka Airport to QAC, confirmed that QLDC has total control of QAC through the annual Statement of Intent (SOI).

That the previous council largely chose not to apply this control does not diminish the current council’s legal mandate to do so.

Nor the importance of maintaining this potential to ensure QAC fulfils QLDC’s strategic objectives for our community’s and environment’s well-being.

Because this is a legal requirement of QAC as a council-controlled trading organisation. The profit and growth agenda of QAC’s commercially focussed board is not.

It is up to a new council to stipulate these objectives in its Statement of Expectations (SOE) early in 2023 and then to ensure QAC listens. Last year, the Council succeeded with step one, but failed to force QAC to follow its governance direction on several important strategic fronts in its SOI.

Sale of even 0.2% of QLDC’s remaining shareholding would lose our community the control it currently has – if council chooses to use it – over QAC. 

So the possible implications of a QLDC fire-sale could be serious for our community.

As, potentially, is Auckland Council’s sale of AIA shares. Because when QAC’s 2010 board secretly sold 24.99% of airport shares to AIA, they also signed a secret strategic agreement with Auckland Airport.

We don’t know what it contains because, well, it’s secret. But we have been told by someone who has seen it that it gives AIA “far too much influence and control, despite QLDC’s assertions to the contrary”. 

Who knows what influence a new shareholder bloc, with no interest in New Zealand/Queenstown/climate change/et cetera might bring to this secret agreement? So we asked new mayor Glyn Lewers some questions about possible implications for Queenstown Lakes of Auckland Council’s potential sale of its Auckland Airport share:

Mayor Glyn Lewers

PQ – If Auckland Council does decide to sell all/some of its shares in AIA, what implications might this have for QAC, QLDC and the broader Queenstown Lakes community? For example, would it have any impact on the strategic agreement (I think still secret) between AIA and QAC? Might it have an effect on the lens through which AIA looks at its cooperation with/part ownership of QAC? Might the removal of Auckland Council’s local government lens change the governance approach of the AIA board? There are no doubt other aspects that might be affected that I haven’t thought of, and I would welcome your comment on these.

GL – Any proposed share sale in relation to AIA is covered by the Constitution.

PQ – QLDC will be facing its own budgetary pressures going forward. As mayor, would you consider it an option to sell down shares in QAC to reduce debt/interest costs?

GL – It has never been raised during my time at Council, except by yourself. I personally hold no such intention.

PQ – If so, what would the process be?

GL – NA

Is there any provision in either law or QAC’s constitution to prevent QAC’s board unilaterally choosing to dilute QLDC’s shareholding further?   (Acknowledging that if QLDC’s QAC shareholding were to go down just 0.2%, we would lose our “supermajority” shareholding and therefore, our guarantee of specified governance controls)

GL – Yes. It would require a resolution of Council.

PQ – If not, would you agree to QLDC looking to change the QAC constitution to prevent such a move?

GL – NA

PQ – Your reasoning for the above decision?

GL – No answer provided.

It would have to be said that we don’t feel much the wiser for these responses. We have asked Mr Lewers for elaboration on his first answer, as we could see no relevant provision in the QAC constitution. We shall share his response once received.

From our reading of the QAC constitution, there are three main risk areas for our community to lose control of QAC and, therefore, our airports and their impact on over-tourism and all its downstream ramifications.

First is if councillors decide that debt or budget constraints override the need to maintain strategic control of our airports and vote by a simple majority to sell. Losing just 0.2% of our shareholding would cost us our supermajority strategic control.  A significant sell-down would lose council’s nominal control over board member choice.

The second would be having QLDC’s cash-strapped hand forced by the QAC board, who we know from experience is not shy of wielding the reins of power in this relationship.  Because shares can be sold to third parties if existing shareholders don’t take up a sales notice (i.e. refuse to add equity).

And the third, which again a cash-strapped QLDC could be susceptible to, would be if our council couldn’t afford to take bonus shares in lieu of a dividend, which could cost us council’s supermajority shareholding and therefore our control.

Even before Covid, labour shortages, inflation and supply chain issues, QLDC was highly likely to find itself facing some serious budgeting and debt issues over the next decade. Selling off airport shares could be seen by some to be an easy solution, especially if councillors didn’t recognise their vital role in airport governance.

The QAC constitution, described by QLDC CEO Mike Theelen as “fit for purpose” earlier this year when challenged by councillors requesting a council-led review, contains no requirement for QAC to consider our community in any decisions it makes.

It does speak of the rights of deceased and body corporate shareholders – neither of which can exist at this stage.

So, as we asked when Mr Theelen first made his “fit for purpose” comment, for whose purpose is QAC’s constitution fit?

Not for the purpose of ensuring QAC meets QLDC’s strategic objectives to enhance the well-being of its community, as legally mandated under the Local Government Act.

Far better designed, it seems, for freeing QAC from any of the LGA’s constraints on a theoretically council-controlled trading organisation.

We Love Wakatipu Inc commentary, 17 July 2022

Today was the first business meeting of the 2022 – 25 Queenstown Lakes District Council.

We Love Wakatipu Inc congratulated the new mayor and councillors, outlined their powers to strategically govern Queenstown Airport Corporation and said we look forward to them doing so.

Here is WLW chair Cath Gilmour’s public forum three minutes’ worth


Public forum

Kia ora koutou.

Congratulations on being brave enough to stand for council and for the honour of being elected. It’s a big job, thank you for being prepared to do it.

I’m chair of We Love Wakatipu Inc and, in this capacity, I’ve been following council’s governance of QAC closely for the last four years.  We and many others have been critical of the hands-off governance of the previous council.

So we’re heartened by the responses to our airport governance survey, which showed the majority of you are keen on a more hands-on strategic approach from Council and for community involvement.

We also believe that this council has the capacity and work ethic required to proactively use your legal powers under the Local Government Act to govern QAC.

Because this is your responsibility.

Under the LGA, your purpose as councillors is to enable democracy and to promote the four wellbeings of our community, in the present and for the future.

And the principal objective of QAC as a council-controlled trading organisation is “to achieve the objectives of its shareholders, both commercial and non-commercial, as specified in the statement of intent.”

So the statement of intent process is really, really important.  It starts with the strategic objectives set in your statement of expectations.  I urge you to ensure you have strong input, so that you can truly act as our community representatives.

For the last several years, the SOE has been the product of the executive team, with little or no councillor input. And statement of intent agenda items have minimised councillors’ role within the entire process.

I have copied off the relevant parts of the LGA for you.  As you’ll see, you hold a lot of power to set the ‘why’ of QAC’s operations – it is then up to QAC to determine the ‘how’. 

This is the appropriate split between governance – your job – and management, which is QAC’s role.

I draw your attention to clause 6 of schedule eight that expressly empowers you to instruct QAC to modify the SOI – and QAC must comply. In four years, not one agenda item has mentioned this and nor have councillors used it, despite QAC at times ignoring explicit SOE instructions.

My handout ends with unequivocal confirmation from senior legal counsel for both council and QAC that as super-majority shareholder, council is in control of the airport through its statement of intent. 

These are direct quotes from their evidence at the High Court hearing that overturned council’s illegal 100 year lease of Wanaka Airport to QAC.

Auckland Mayor Len Brown has shown you what is possible in terms of councils governing their council-controlled trading organisations. The Auckland Transport chair who resigned is chair of QAC.

I certainly don’t suggest you copy Mayor Brown’s modus operandi, but it does point out that the dictate of the last four years that councillors should keep their sticky beaks out of CCTO governance can be challenged. 

Consultation since 2018 has consistently shown tourism losing its social licence through over-tourism and its myriad downstream effects. Even through Covid, there’ve been repeated calls for a tourism reset.

The latest draft of the regenerative tourism plan indicates this group has listened to community feedback on this front. This was a refreshing change.

We look forward to this also happening around the council table.  We are encouraged by your campaign comments, Mayor Lewers, that you would.

We’d especially encourage council to have a conversation with our community about how we want Queenstown Lakes to develop, how to manage growth and all its attendant issues.

Again, thank you and I look forward to watching your work with delight.

We Love Wakatipu Inc survey responses and commentary 25 October, 2022

Here we gather responses from the successful candidates in this year’s Queenstown Lakes District Council election to We Love Wakatipu Inc’s survey on airport governance as a benchmark for their actions and votes over the next three years.

On the basis of these, we are optimistic that this new council’s governance of Queenstown Airport Corporation will strengthen, and the community’s clear pushback against the over-tourism that had already made itself felt pre-Covid will be listened and responded to.

Interestingly, none of the candidates who couldn’t find time to respond to our survey on this vital issue got elected.

Post-election, we approached the four successful Wānaka ward councillors with the same survey we had sent earlier to Wakatipu ward candidates, with the additional question of “what should the role of QAC in be in future governance of Wānaka Airport, and how should agreement on this be reached?” 

Their answers suggest a lower level of engagement and knowledge, except from deputy mayor Quentin Smith who has been an active proponent of stronger council governance over the past three years. Fair comments from the two newbies that they want to do their research before making public comment, especially as the High Court’s overturning of QLDC’s illegal lease of Wānaka Airport to QAC made this less of an election issue for them.

Here is a link to the “airport governance 101” primer sent with the survey, as a backgrounder for their governance roles, responsibilities and powers under the Local Government Act for QAC as a council-controlled trading organisation.

New mayor Glyn Lewers’ survey responses and voting record of the last three years showed him to be the mayoral candidate least likely to support stronger council governance of Queenstown Airport Corporation.

He was a member of the joint QAC-QLDC steering group that was meant to be a conduit between Council and QAC on governance issues, though they did not even meet this year.

As such, he potentially held a lot of influence to strengthen council governance and our communities’ democratic participation, and to promote our community, environmental, economic and social well-being. These are council’s roles and responsibilities under the Local Government Act. There was no evidence of him doing so.

His survey responses suggest that, of his own accord, he would continue this “hands off’ model. However, in his media comments since the election he has said he intends to listen to his councillors and reflect their perspectives, not just his own.

Taking him at his word, We Love Wakatipu Inc looks forward to this and the resultant stronger reflection of both his councillors’ and the community’s explicit calls for stronger governance of Queenstown Airport Corporation to prevent the negative downstream effects of over-tourism. Because a majority of those who signed up as our councillors on Thursday, October 20, say no to ANB expansion, yes to hands-on strategic planning, community involvement, council signoff of Strategic Plan and Master Plan and investigating opportunities/risks of the proposed Tarras International airport. It is too late for council signoff of the current Strategic Plan, handily produced just before the election, but councillors could require it for future iterations.

A quick tally of some of the survey results (you can read them in full below) shows:

  • 11 of 11 around the table said no to air noise boundary expansion at ZQN. QAC has already signed up to for the next 10 years, although they can still go ahead with planning to do so.
  • Six said council should be “hands on” in strategic planning for ZQN land in the next five decades; two say “hands off”; three were either “no comment” or not clear.
  • Eight agreed community should be involved; three gave either “no” or vague comments.
  • Council-led review of QAC’S constitution got a yes from five; “open to it” from one, not informed enough/no comment from three; no from two.
  • Council signoff of Strategic Plan had yes from seven, no from two, no comment from two.
  • Council signoff of Master Plan received yes from seven, “yes but” from two (mayor Lewers’ response suggested the current SOI requires council approval, which it doesn’t) and no response from two.
  • Investigating opportunities/risks of the proposed Tarras International Airport got a yes from six: a no from one; no response from two; one “take it seriously” and one saying not until it is a proven risk.

If you want to see what strong council governance would look like, check out Cr Niki Gladding’s suggested approach in her survey response.

For the full results, read on…

Scroll the page or go directly to:

Mayor Glyn Lewers / Dep Mayor Quentin Smith / Matt Wong / Esther Whitehead / Gavin Bartlett / Niki Gladding / Lisa Guy / Neeta Shetty / Craig Ferguson / Lyal Cocks / Barry Bruce


Mayor Glyn Lewers

Queenstown Airport air noise boundary expansion?

The Air Noise Boundary expansion is off the table. The Airport and the Council have said no to any expansion over the last three years and have said no for the coming 10 years. So it’s a No

What should be council’s role in the airport’s strategic planning for use of ZQN land in the next 30 to 50 years: Hands On or Hands Off?

In my view, innovation and productivity gains come with a bottom-up approach; some may call it hands-off. The office of the Auditor General has endorsed this approach. We, as councillors, do not know how to run an airport. We have directed them to the plans we want them to follow. For example, the spatial plan, the current Airport governance team and the executive are doing an outstanding job in some of the most demanding operating conditions to respond to the many needs of the district’s community. They are currently thinking ahead for the next ten years and beyond. An airport needs to think long term as the infrastructure requirements are critical and long-lasting. I think the airport should be looking at diversifying its income from landing fees, utilising its unused land holding, and developing plans to enhance the user experience within the campus.

Tourism growth – your approach?

Implement the Destination Management plan. It is foolish to think we can control numbers, but we effectively limited arrivals by air by halting air noise boundary expansion for the next ten years. We now have to concentrate on land-based transport solutions to deal with the bounce back.

Community involvement?

As Frankton Community Chairperson I had easy access to the airport executive and could make the community’s voice heard. I have always found the airport executive approachable and keen to listen to the community. I am pleased that is what they will be doing with respect to the Master plan which will happen early next year.

Council-led legal review of the QAC constitution?

We have already discussed this at the Council table, and it was decided not to go ahead, as we deemed it fit for purpose given the various legislative requirements an airport company has to meet.

Council sign-off required on the 10-year Strategic Plan?

The strategic plan is already in the draft; Council has given their feedback and will soon be released for all to see. It has not varied from the strategic outcomes listed in the current Statement of Intent, so there is no need to go back and relitigate an already approved process

Council sign-off required on the Airport Master Plan?

This has already been decided. The Master plan will come to Council after it has been consulted on with the community.

[WLW note: The 2023-2025 Statement of Intent says the QAC board “will report the final master plan to shareholders and seek shareholder endorsement of the final master plan before any final approval by the board.” The word seek does not mean require, so the current SOI does not require council sign-off on the master plan. It will be shared with the council, but the SOI makes clear there is no requirement for the QAC board to act on any council feedback.]

Should QLDC investigate what opportunities/risks exist if Tarras International Airport gets the go-ahead?

If Tarras gets approval, QAC will have ample opportunity to assess the opportunities and risks. At this stage, I would rather have the airport concentrate on rebuilding its business after Covid for the well-being of the community.

As an incumbent councillor, you are welcome to explain your voting record during this term on the above issues.

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.

Mayor Glyn Lewers / Dep Mayor Quentin Smith / Matt Wong / Esther Whitehead / Gavin Bartlett / Niki Gladding / Lisa Guy / Neeta Shetty / Craig Ferguson / Lyal Cocks / Barry Bruce


Deputy Mayor Quentin Smith

Queenstown Airport air noise boundary expansion?

No, but also I think we are fixated on the ANB too much, the quantum of growth is what is relevant.  I suspect that even 3m+ passenger movements under the current ANB is potentially going to be an issue. 

What should be council’s role in the airport’s strategic planning for use of ZQN land in the next 30 to 50 years: Hands On or Hands Off?

Hands on? We should be engaged in strategic decisions but not operational day to day issues.

Tourism growth – your approach?

The key issue is social licence.  Tourism has to be contributing not extracting from our community.  I don’t think we can increase the ratio of tourists to visitors, it needs to be managed in a sustainable way and the further than imbalance become the worse it is for our community.

Community involvement?

Should be a backbone of everything Qldc does.

Council-led legal review of the QAC constitution?

Yes, we need to make sure we are protected from QAC asset sales without approval. 

Council sign-off required on the 10-year Strategic Plan?

Yes, Strategic overview is where we should be at and then allow the QAC to get on with approved direction. 

Council sign-off required on the Airport Master Plan?

Yes

Should QLDC investigate what opportunities/risks exist if Tarras International Airport gets the go-ahead – yes or no?

Yes, regardless of where it does proceed it is a significant operational risk to our airport business so naturally we need to understand and manage that risk.

If you are an incumbent councillor, you are welcome to explain your voting record during this term on the above issues.

I stand by my voting record and have been consistent in defending community/council control of the big airport decisions.

Mayor Glyn Lewers / Dep Mayor Quentin Smith / Matt Wong / Esther Whitehead / Gavin Bartlett / Niki Gladding / Lisa Guy / Neeta Shetty / Craig Ferguson / Lyal Cocks / Barry Bruce


Matt Wong

Queenstown Airport air noise boundary expansion?

No. From what I have been told it is not likely to happen in the next decade with high community support against expansion. I need to talk with Glen (CEO of QAC) and community leaders to fully understand the complexity of this issue. I previously managed a heli operation for 4 years at the airport. Now I cringe at the sound of aircraft but there always needs to be good balance, and that serves the whole community.

What should be council’s role in the airport’s strategic planning for use of ZQN land in the next 30 to 50 years: Hands On or Hands Off?

Hands on but not in the weeds. There is some bad history and trust that needs repaired.

Tourism growth – your approach?

We do not have control over visitor numbers to the district, although political rhetoric will have you believe we can dilute or reduce visitors. We can control how they interact while visiting the district and how much they pay for services. The Destination Management Plan and Tourism Industry Transformation Plan must drive tourism operators to not just think but act regeneratively. I am doing this with my SME tourism business and my customers are paying for our community and environmental projects that benefit people and place. And regenerative tourism has a commercial benefit, but we need legacy leaders to think about the future, about a win win win approach for all stakeholders both internal and external.  If we scale our regenerative efforts, we could have a visitor economy that works for our district, one we can be proud of. Corporate greed and governance solely driving profits to shareholders must change. Change KPI’s to benefit all stakeholders (Commercial, Environment, Community and Culture). By the way, this is not just a tourisms issue, it exists in many district industries – tech, transport, farming, logistics, construction, retail etc. A diverse economy without community at its heart is just introducing more of the same issues. We all must do better to change our mindset to see business, community, environment, people, are part of the one ecosystem.

Community involvement?

I am standing because I want better community involvement to solve the massive freight train of issues coming at us, but there needs to be far better communication and cross community collaboration from council and from community. No councillor should have just one agenda. Doesn’t mean you need to be an expert, far from it, but you need to lean on community and council to guide decision making and solve the complex issues, together.

Council-led legal review of the QAC constitution?

Yes, if the QAC initiated review was not conducted in a robust and transparent manner and conflicts of interest were not managed well, then I would support a council led review. The history of QAC, QLDC, and community has been highly controversial, and it should be expect there will be a higher level of scrutiny to manage until there is a transparent and trusted relationship. 

If it was not done in a robust, transparent way YES, I hate wasting time, resource, and money because work wasn’t executed or communicated well to the stakeholders.

Council sign-off required on the 10-year Strategic Plan?

YES

Council sign-off required on the Airport Master Plan?

YES

Should QLDC investigate what opportunities/risks exist if Tarras International Airport gets the go-ahead?

YES – but this shouldn’t be a massive cost! A SWOT of the Tarras Airport is just good governance.

Mayor Glyn Lewers / Dep Mayor Quentin Smith / Matt Wong / Esther Whitehead / Gavin Bartlett / Niki Gladding / Lisa Guy / Neeta Shetty / Craig Ferguson / Lyal Cocks / Barry Bruce


Esther Whitehead

Queenstown Airport air noise boundary expansion?

no

What should be council’s role in the airport’s strategic planning for use of ZQN land in the next 30 to 50 years: Hands On or Hands Off?

Hands on. There is much at stake. The strategic plan talks of growth and ‘magical’ technology as its strategy for reducing carbon footprint. The land use has potential to enhance or degrade the community, therefore we need a say.

Tourism growth – your approach?

Start to strategically plan for capped numbers through our airport and for Destination Queenstown to review its regenerative tourism strategy to talk about managing degrowth in specific areas, types of tourism.

Community involvement?

I will still advocate for sign off on strategic plan and master plan. I’ll ask for specifics around the key assumptions QAC has made in its most recent draft strategy. Their key assumptions put our community’s asset at risk both environmentally and economically by assuming a stable economy and no disruption to the economy for the next 10 years.

Council-led legal review of the QAC constitution?

YES, I have already asked for this in the next triennium.

Council sign-off required on the 10-year Strategic Plan?

Yes

Council sign-off required on the Airport Master Plan?

Yes

Should QLDC investigate what opportunities/risks exist if Tarras International Airport gets the go-ahead?

Yes, it’s made the assumption that it won’t operate in the next 10 years and is therefore not assessing opportunities or risk.

As an incumbent councillor, you are welcome to explain your voting record during this term on the above issues.

I 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 and stopping ANB expansion, clearly understands council’s legal powers to do so, and has actively promoted this through moving strategic resolutions since becoming a councillor in a by-election 15 months ago.

Mayor Glyn Lewers / Dep Mayor Quentin Smith / Matt Wong / Esther Whitehead / Gavin Bartlett / Niki Gladding / Lisa Guy / Neeta Shetty / Craig Ferguson / Lyal Cocks / Barry Bruce


Gavin Bartlett

Queenstown Airport air noise boundary expansion?

I would not support an expansion of the Queenstown Airport Noise Boundaries.

What should be council’s role in the airport’s strategic planning for use of ZQN land in the next 30 to 50 years: Hands On or Hands Off?

Hands on. I would like to see QLDC take a more ‘hands on’ role in the strategic planning of Queenstown Airport and land.

Tourism growth – your approach?

I think there are valid concerns around tourism levels returning to pre-covid levels.  I would like to see a coordinated tourism strategy across the southern region, making better use of the existing airports at Dunedin and Invercargill and looking at providing transport links between these centres and the Queenstown Lakes district.

Community involvement?

The community has shown that it has a significant interest in the actions and operations of the airport, and greater community involvement should be catered for.

Council-led legal review of the QAC constitution?

The option for a Council-led legal review of the QAC constitution should at least be offered for discussion/debate.

Council sign-off required on the 10-year Strategic Plan?

Council should be asked to review, provide input and accept (when satisfied) a 10-year strategic plan for a Council Controlled Trading Organisation.

Council sign-off required on the Airport Master Plan?

Similar to the above, Council should be asked to review, provide input and accept (when satisfied) an Airport Master Plan for an airport which is a Council Controlled Trading Organisation.

Should QLDC investigate what opportunities/risks exist if Tarras International Airport gets the go-ahead?

The proposed Tarras Airport project is outside of QAC and QLDC influence and control, but it would be prudent for QLDC to investigate both the risks and opportunities to the wider Queenstown Lakes district associated with the project should it go ahead (and indeed if it does not).

Mayor Glyn Lewers / Dep Mayor Quentin Smith / Matt Wong / Esther Whitehead / Gavin Bartlett / Niki Gladding / Lisa Guy / Neeta Shetty / Craig Ferguson / Lyal Cocks / Barry Bruce


Niki Gladding

Queenstown Airport air noise boundary expansion?

NO

What should be council’s role in the airport’s strategic planning for use of ZQN land in the next 30 to 50 years: Hands On or Hands Off?

Hands on.

The airport’s strategic plan needs to respond to growth pressures, the climate emergency and AIAL’s proposal for Tarras.  There are plenty of value judgements to be made and I believe those should sit with elected representatives rather than experts in corporate governance.    Personally, I’d like to see: QAC limit growth by not expanding the terminal; debt remain low so we can retain control of the asset in all future scenarios; and a sinking lid on the aircraft emissions ZQN enables.  But these are complex decisions with huge consequences and so they need to be made with community input.

Council’s role in the Strategic Planning process should include:

  1. Amending the constitution to ensure the right drivers are in place; 
  2. Modifying the SOI to uncouple QAC’s strategic planning from current visitor demand projections and to require council sign-off of QAC’s Strategic Plan before it can be implemented;  
  3. Commissioning an independent risk assessment of its investment in QAC under different future scenarios (taking Tarras and climate change into account);  
  4. Facilitating a discussion with the community about the costs, benefits, risks and opportunities of different strategic scenarios for our Airport and Airport land.

Tourism growth – your approach?

We’re facing global uncertainty, so we need to be very careful and very clever about our private and public investments in this district.  Currently,  QLDC is investing in line with projected peak visitor numbers on the assumption that it can’t limit those numbers.  I don’t support that assumption or that approach. 

I believe that in the first instance, QLDC needs to facilitate an informed discussion with the community about:

  1. The costs and benefits of allowing tourism growth in line with projected demand;  
  2. The risks of investing or not investing in tourism infrastructure in line with projected peak demand;  
  3. The rate of tourism growth or degrowth the community would ideally like to see; and  
  4. The levers QLDC has to limit growth and how they could be used to achieve growth in line with the community’s (informed) position.   

Community involvement?

YES

Council-led legal review of the QAC constitution?

YES

Council sign-off required on the 10-year Strategic Plan?

YES

Council sign-off required on the Airport Master Plan?

YES

Should QLDC investigate what opportunities/risks exist if Tarras International Airport gets the go-ahead?

YES

As an incumbent councillor, you are welcome to explain your voting record during this term on the above issues.

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 consistently and staunchly advocated for stopping ZQN’s ANB expansion and improved governance of QAC throughout the past term. (The other two being Cr Shaw, sadly not standing again, and Cr Quentin Smith, standing in Wānaka). 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. Her diligent activism would be much more effective with colleagues who understood and applied their governance role with QAC, as we are hoping for this term.

Mayor Glyn Lewers / Dep Mayor Quentin Smith / Matt Wong / Esther Whitehead / Gavin Bartlett / Niki Gladding / Lisa Guy / Neeta Shetty / Craig Ferguson / Lyal Cocks / Barry Bruce


Lisa Guy

Queenstown Airport air noise boundary expansion?

Overwhelming level of public feedback against this, I’d represent our communities wishes to not increase air noise boundary expansion.

What should be council’s role in the airport’s strategic planning for use of ZQN land in the next 30 to 50 years: Hands On or Hands Off?

Council are responsible for strategic oversight and good governance of our district and are the super-majority shareholder of QAC assets – while I’m on a learning curve as to how this applies in reality, I’m assuming a level of strategic sign off would be the least required.

Tourism growth – your approach?

Many conversations to be had about how we may re-engineer and focus tourism to regenerative and sustainable outcomes. This is a nationwide issue. Addressing things locally while important, may only push the problem around the country. There is much we can do to move our provision of visitor experiences, products, and services with respect for Earths environmental ceilings. I’m in support of a nationwide tourism levy. Every day a New Zealander carries the burden of at least one other visitor. Respect for people, place and productivity requires targeted funding to ensure we can invest in infrastructure and continue to strive towards more sustainable outcomes.

Community involvement?

Community involvement is critical to my overall approach to good governance. I will be focused on communicating and engaging with people to ensure we are all well informed on local issues and make any decisions based on clear demonstratable evidence of what our constituents want 

Council-led legal review of the QAC constitution?

Not yet informed enough on this issue to respond.

Council sign-off required on the 10-year Strategic Plan?

Yes

Council sign-off required on the Airport Master Plan?

Yes

Should QLDC investigate what opportunities/risks exist if Tarras International Airport gets the go-ahead?

Yes

Mayor Glyn Lewers / Dep Mayor Quentin Smith / Matt Wong / Esther Whitehead / Gavin Bartlett / Niki Gladding / Lisa Guy / Neeta Shetty / Craig Ferguson / Lyal Cocks / Barry Bruce


Neeta Shetty

Queenstown Airport air noise boundary expansion?

No.

Air traffic control technology and airport design are being used globally to help reduce aircraft noise for people on the ground. Innovation and technology must be pioneered when considering the effects of our airport.

What should be council’s role in the airport’s strategic planning for use of ZQN land in the next 30 to 50 years: Hands On or Hands Off?

The council must have a ‘hands-on’ approach.

It is imperative for QLDC to have an active and involved role in the airport’s strategic planning. As stated by QAC, “strategic planning of the aviation facility is complicated and requires consultation.” I would think that by QAC’s own admission, QLDC must be a vested interest in the consultation as the key voice of the community and major shareholder.

Tourism growth – your approach?

Tourism brings opportunities to our region. Tourism places our nation and particularly our region on the global map. Tourism is one of the ways that we could attract investments for our economic diversity. Our visitors bring a vibrancy to our region and take back with them stories of our people, history and culture. However, we must manage our tourism efficiently and effectively. We could set the benchmark for both sustainable tourism and growth if we can adjust our priorities to include climate change, our environment and the community at the heart of our policies. Our goal must be to provide our residents and our tourist an exceptional Queenstown-Lakes experience without compromising the integrity of our environment.

Community involvement?

My only vested interest is as a community member, so community involvement in council decision is non-negotiable for me. I am not in favour of closed-door meetings as it is my belief that the best and most pragmatic approaches are community-led. Notwithstanding, the council is using public money for these decisions, so community involvement is pivotal.

Council-led legal review of the QAC constitution?

Yes.

We need to have a review of the QAC constitution. It is also important that we do this in a timely manner.

Council sign-off required on the 10-year Strategic Plan?

Yes.

Councillors recommendation on the draft SoE provides for a transparent process that keeps all parties accountable.

Council sign-off required on the Airport Master Plan?

Yes.

With the unscrupulous Wanaka Airport lease, council has a responsibility to ensure  that the Airport Master Plan is signed off; so the public can trust that the council has acted in the best interest of the community.

Should QLDC investigate what opportunities/risks exist if Tarras International Airport gets the go-ahead?

No.

I’m not convinced there is an immediate need for an international airport of such magnitude, albeit outside of our district but within such close proximity. With the uncertainty of the current times, we must make prudent decisions with our resource – environmental, monetary and social. Apart from a colossal environmental issue and with a massive carbon footprint, the airport is also an economic concern to the Queenstown-Lakes – as the Tarras Airport threatens the our district’s niche existence.

Mayor Glyn Lewers / Dep Mayor Quentin Smith / Matt Wong / Esther Whitehead / Gavin Bartlett / Niki Gladding / Lisa Guy / Neeta Shetty / Craig Ferguson / Lyal Cocks / Barry Bruce


Craig Ferguson

Queenstown Airport air noise boundary expansion?

NO

What should be council’s role in the airport’s strategic planning for use of ZQN land in the next 30 to 50 years: Hands On or Hands Off?

Hands off

Tourism growth – your approach?

Manageable, liveable, but will be able to control. Thats a worry for me.

Community involvement?

Absolutely

Council-led legal review of the QAC constitution?

No

Council sign-off required on the 10-year Strategic Plan?

No, I have faith in the board but Council need to be more than a partner. The

Council sign-off required on the Airport Master Plan?

Yes but

Should QLDC investigate what opportunities/risks exist if Tarras International Airport gets the go-ahead?

All I would say is that we need to take Tarras seriously.

As an incumbent councillor, you are welcome to explain your voting record during this term on the above issues.

(No comment provided)

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. Some examples of his 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.

Mayor Glyn Lewers / Dep Mayor Quentin Smith / Matt Wong / Esther Whitehead / Gavin Bartlett / Niki Gladding / Lisa Guy / Neeta Shetty / Craig Ferguson / Lyal Cocks / Barry Bruce


Lyal Cocks

I don’t support extending the Queenstown Airport noise boundaries.

I support the Council and Wanaka Community Board being involved with QAC strategic planning for Queenstown and Wanaka Airports.

I do not support another airport at Tarras.

I do not believe the Council should be operating airports and therefore we need to work out with QAC Governance and Operational options for the Wanaka Airport that will enable appropriate development for the communities consideration.

Mayor Glyn Lewers / Dep Mayor Quentin Smith / Matt Wong / Esther Whitehead / Gavin Bartlett / Niki Gladding / Lisa Guy / Neeta Shetty / Craig Ferguson / Lyal Cocks / Barry Bruce


Barry Bruce

As a new Councillor Elect I would prefer to be fully briefed on Airport operations and strategic plans before any comment.

However I can assure you I can define the roles of Management and Governance, and consider Councillors role is strictly Governance.

Mayor Glyn Lewers / Dep Mayor Quentin Smith / Matt Wong / Esther Whitehead / Gavin Bartlett / Niki Gladding / Lisa Guy / Neeta Shetty / Craig Ferguson / Lyal Cocks / Barry Bruce

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. 

Queenstown Airport

WLW survey and commentary

Queenstown Airport Corporation released their draft 10-year Strategic Plan this week. We Love Wakatipu sent a survey to current councillors who are seeking re-election asking for their thoughts on the process and councillor input on this vital strategic document.

We asked the following questions:

  1. When did you first see QAC’s draft strategic plan?
  2. Did full council discuss and communicate to QAC its strategic objectives for QAC to achieve through this plan prior to receiving this draft?
  3. Did you have any opportunity for input and discussion with QAC?
  4. If so, in what forum (workshop, full council meeting, as an individual, joint steering group…).
  5. If not, do you think you should have? And if so, in what forum?
  6. Are you satisfied with the process to date and council’s governance role of its CCTO?
  7. If not, what would you improve?
  8. You are welcome of course to add any further comments if you would like.

We have noted our our serious concerns, expressed repeatedly in our council public forum submissions on airport governance, about:

  • the invisibility of the Strategic Plan process and drivers, to both councillors and community,
  • the lack of input from councillors, especially about council’s strategic objectives for QAC,
  • and the refusal of QAC (with acquiescence from the majority of councillors) to accept QLDC sign off of the Strategic Plan prior to implementation, despite explicit instruction that this was required by the council that purportedly controls them.

Candidates’ responses are listed in the order they were received. Cr Glyn Lewers, who is standing for Mayor, did not respond. We acknowledge it was a tight turnaround for response at a busy time in the campaign, so thank you to those who did so.

Link directly to: Quentin Smith / Esther Whitehead / Niki Gladding / Craig Ferguson


Cr Quentin Smith, Wānaka Ward

When did you first see QAC’s draft strategic plan? 

I think it was circulated mid-august ahead of a workshop on the 30th august.

Did full council discuss and communicate to QAC its strategic objectives for QAC to achieve through this plan prior to receiving this draft?

No. 

Did you have any opportunity for input and discussion with QAC?

Yes, at the 30th August workshop.  The councillors were provided an opportunity to provide feedback.  It’s not clear explicitly what was taken on board although the concerns were noted and discussed.  

If so, in what forum (workshop, full council meeting, as an individual, joint steering group…).

See above.  Steering group has not met in 2022. 

If not, do you think you should have? And if so, in what forum? 

Steering group has a useful function, but has not been used this year for various reasons.

Are you satisfied with the process to date and council’s governance role of its CCTO?

Definitely not.  Over my terms at council the management of airport issues from the lease to the SOI have been poor and cause a lot of issues between council and the community.  Dealings have become a little easier with Glen at the helm, but we have a long way to go still.  

If not, what would you improve?

I think we need a significant reset of the relationship with QAC, and the new council and the relatively recent start of Glen Sowry provide a great opportunity to seek better alignment on strategic direction and trust with the community.

You are welcome of course to add any further comments if you would like.

Disappointing that they have chosen to raise the future of Wanaka airport.  This remains wholly in council’s hands and is not part of this process.   The kickback on air noise boundaries issues previously was driven by concern over quantum of growth not necessarily “noise” discreetly.  I suspect a large quantum of passenger moment growth even if it within “existing” air noise boundaries may still not be popular.  The noise boundaries are very technical measurement and were only a defacto for community wanting limits imposed.

Link directly to: Quentin Smith / Esther Whitehead / Niki Gladding / Craig Ferguson


Cr Esther Whitehead, Queenstown-Wakatipu Ward

When did you first see QAC’s draft strategic plan? 

Monday 15th August at QAC with Glen Sowry presenting it.

Did full council discuss and communicate to QAC its strategic objectives for QAC to achieve through this plan prior to receiving this draft?

Yes, through the Statement of Expectations and SOI. (But this is notoriously lacking process as answered in the final question).

Did you have any opportunity for input and discussion with QAC?

Yes.  

If so, in what forum (workshop, full council meeting, as an individual, joint steering group…).

We had a workshop to give feedback following the presentation at the Airport.  My contribution was that the Key assumptions are wrong and create risk for us as a community. QAC are operating as if we’re not in a climate crisis.  Their assumptions that I questioned:

“Macro-economic environment will remain stable over the period” 

“There will be no major event that impacts on the world economy and demand for air travel “

“There will be changes to legislation / government policy, but they will not significantly impact on how we provide our services / deliver the airport activity.”


These assumptions are the wrong assumptions to make, they put our investment at risk, we should be making assumptions such as 

“Degrowth is a possibly strategy for the district that may impact airport activity.”

“There are highly likely to be major impacts from Climate Change that affect the demand for air travel.”

I gave this feedback and Glen Sowry said he’d take it onboard.

If not, do you think you should have? And if so, in what forum? 

Steering group has a useful function, but has not been used this year for various reasons.

Are you satisfied with the process to date and council’s governance role of its CCTO?

NO

If not, what would you improve?

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’s 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.

Link directly to: Quentin Smith / Esther Whitehead / Niki Gladding / Craig Ferguson


Cr Niki Gladding, Queenstown-Wakatipu Ward

When did you first see QAC’s draft strategic plan? 

I first saw the ‘Draft’ Strategic Plan on 15 August.  All councillors were invited to a ‘Shareholder Briefing’ at the Airport. A representative from Auckland Airport was also present. There was a presentation by QAC and the councillors who attended were handed a confidential ‘draft’.  It wasn’t really a draft – it was essentially a complete document (spiral bound on heavy paper with full graphics) and Mr Sowry made comments that suggested he was anxious to get it signed off.

It took me by surprise because the 2022 SOI, which was operative during the development of the Plan, says: “QAC will proactively engage with its shareholders on its development”.  As I’ve always said of the SOI, words matter.  If challenged, QAC might argue that providing the ability to comment at the 11th hour is engaging with shareholders on the plan’s development, but I don’t think that meets the ‘good faith’ test.

Did full council discuss and communicate to QAC its strategic objectives for QAC to achieve through this plan prior to receiving this draft?

The full Council’s only input was via the 2022/23 Statement of Intent which says this: “The strategic plan will align to the directions agreed by shareholders through the Statement of Intent.” I didn’t support that Statement of Intent.

The minutes record this: “Councillor Smith considered that the content of the SOI had improved but without a commitment to have open discussion about the strategic plan and masterplan he was not prepared to support the recommendation. Councillor Gladding supported this view as she did not consider that the Local Government Act was met without public consultation on the strategic plan and masterplan. Councillor Whitehead was also critical of the SOI.”  The minutes also record that “Councillors Gladding, Shaw, Smith and Whitehead recorded their votes against the motion.” 

If so, in what forum (workshop, full council meeting, as an individual, joint steering group…). AND Are you satisfied with the process to date and council’s governance role of its CCTO?

The only opportunity I had to have input into the Strategic Plan (other than via the SOI) was on and after the 15th of August 2022.  After the presentation on the 15th, there was an online council workshop on 30 August – Glen Sowry and Simon Flood were present for QAC.  There was no councillor-only forum prior to the workshop with QAC and there should have been.  

I gave a significant amount of feedback on both the 15th and the 30th.  Major issues were with a number of the key assumptions, the complete failure to address climate risk (to the company), the size of the capital programme and debt levels, no limit on the use of different debt products, the objective of catering for demand, promoting the “fly direct to destination value proposition”, the assumption that the terminal will be extended (which undermines consultation on the masterplan), the pigeon-holing of sustainability into the Sustainability Plan, and the failure to address enabled emissions.

Are you satisfied with the process to date and council’s governance role of its CCTO? AND If not, what would you improve?

With respect to the Strategic Plan, I don’t believe QAC has acted in good faith with the full council.  It committed to proactively engaging with its shareholders on the development of the Strategic Plan and in my opinion, it hasn’t done that.  However, it’s hard to put too much blame the Board when QLDC management and the majority of councillors have supported a ‘hands off’ approach.

Going forward I will do whatever I can to ensure the Council takes a hands-on approach to governing QAC in a way that reflects the District’s Vision, and the need to drive down gross emissions.  In terms of improving process I would support:

  1. As a first step, to protect ratepayers, requiring QAC to remove any mention of the Strategic Plan from the current SOI
  2. An informed community consultation on tourism growth that considers the consequences of different growth scenarios, the different levers we can pull to limit growth, and what level of growth would best serve the community.  The results should inform QLDC’s visitor growth projections which will in turn inform the next iteration of the Spatial Plan, the Ten-Year Plan, the SOI, and the Airport’s Strategic Planning.
  3. Community consultation and QLDC ‘sign off’ on a revised Strategic Plan for QAC (same for the Masterplan).  The Strategic Plan process should consider the financial and carbon impacts of different strategic directions.  The SOI should not limit the consideration of options the way the current SOI does and Flightplan 2050’s proposal should be considered as one option for the future.
  4. An independent risk assessment of any Strategic Plan before QLDC sign off.
  5. A QLDC-led review of QAC’s constitution (with significant councillor involvement).
  6. An SOI and Strategic Plan steering group that includes all councillors who want to be involved.  Minutes to be kept.
  7. Requiring that the QAC Board includes members who have local government experience and expertise and expertise in climate risk and mitigation.

Link directly to: Quentin Smith / Esther Whitehead / Niki Gladding / Craig Ferguson


Cr Craig Ferguson, Arrowtown-Kawarau Ward

When did you first see QAC’s draft strategic plan? 

It was tabled at a meeting between councillor’s and the QAC in August. It was a meeting I was unable to attend due to work commitments.

Did full council discuss and communicate to QAC its strategic objectives for QAC to achieve through this plan prior to receiving this draft?

We had been through the SOE and SOI, which have become much discussed documents. The answer for me though is no. 

Did you have any opportunity for input and discussion with QAC?

Yes councillor’s were given the opportunity. 

If so, in what forum (workshop, full council meeting, as an individual, joint steering group…).

Another workshop, after the airport meeting, allowed more councillor feedback. In my opinion I feel the many views and opinions current councillor’s hold around QAC tend to stall the desire we are trying to seek. A new council and Mayor will test this further in the new triennium 

If not, do you think you should have? And if so, in what forum? 

I would like to have seen the steering group used more effectively for the benefit of councillor’s and that may have helped in any potential consensus as mentioned above.

Are you satisfied with the process to date and council’s governance role of its CCTO?

I am comfortable with the process but frustrated at the friction this issue continues to cause not only around the table but in the community as well. The new CEO Glen Sowry has brought a different attitude, understanding and feel that we must make the most of for the community. I would hope full council are more involved in governance and a level of consensus and trust can be found for all.

Link directly to: Quentin Smith / Esther Whitehead / Niki Gladding / Craig Ferguson

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.

Link directly to: Esther Whitehead / Niki Gladding / Craig Ferguson / Glyn Lewers


Esther Whitehead

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.

Link directly to: Esther Whitehead / Niki Gladding / Craig Ferguson / Glyn Lewers


Niki Gladding

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.

Link directly to: Esther Whitehead / Niki Gladding / Craig Ferguson / Glyn Lewers


Craig Ferguson

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.

Link directly to: Esther Whitehead / Niki Gladding / Craig Ferguson / Glyn Lewers


Glyn Lewers

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.

On the

Link directly to: Esther Whitehead / Niki Gladding / Craig Ferguson / Glyn Lewers

On the QLDC election hustings three years ago, every candidate but for Jim Boult and Heath Copland promised to oppose air noise boundary expansion at Queenstown Airport. Most of them broke that promise.

Poor governance of Queenstown Airport Corporation by Council has been a serious issue over this past term, as proper process and democracy were ignored in favour of a pro-growth agenda.

So this election, We Love Wakatipu Inc wrote to all mayoral and Wakatipu ward councillor candidates to get their election commitments in writing.  So that voters know what they are voting for and in the hope that it will lead to more integrity between campaign promises and successful candidates’ actions.  Note those who didn’t find time to respond, despite two reminders and a deadline extension.

We also took the opportunity to give a brief “airport governance 101” backgrounder so that new councillors know they have the legal power to direct QAC strategic directives and scope of activities. And to help them recognise when they are being fed inaccurate or inadequate advice.

The questions we asked:

  1. Queenstown Airport air noise boundary expansion?
  2. What should be council’s role in the airport’s strategic planning for use of ZQN land in the next 30 to 50 years: Hands On or Hands Off?
  3. Tourism growth – your approach?
  4. Community involvement?
  5. Council-led legal review of the QAC constitution?
  6. Council sign-off required on the 10-year Strategic Plan?
  7. Council sign-off required on the Airport Master Plan?
  8. Should QLDC investigate what opportunities/risks exist if Tarras International Airport gets the go-ahead?

Candidates are grouped according to ward, listed in the order we received their response, and the answers are presented as they were written. Photos are reproduced from council’s election website.

Scroll the page or go directly to:

Queenstown-Wakatipu Ward / Matt Wong / Esther Whitehead / Gavin Bartlett / Niki Gladding

No responses received from: Stevey Chernishov, Anton Dorner, Peter Newport, Clair Turnham, or Mary Weston.

Arrowtown-Kawarau Ward / Lisa Guy / Neeta Shetty / Craig Ferguson / Nell Hunter / Danijel Duvnjak /

No response received from: Melissa White.


Queenstown-Wakatipu Ward


Matt Wong

Queenstown Airport air noise boundary expansion?

No. From what I have been told it is not likely to happen in the next decade with high community support against expansion. I need to talk with Glen (CEO of QAC) and community leaders to fully understand the complexity of this issue. I previously managed a heli operation for 4 years at the airport. Now I cringe at the sound of aircraft but there always needs to be good balance, and that serves the whole community.

What should be council’s role in the airport’s strategic planning for use of ZQN land in the next 30 to 50 years: Hands On or Hands Off?

Hands on but not in the weeds. There is some bad history and trust that needs repaired.

Tourism growth – your approach?

We do not have control over visitor numbers to the district, although political rhetoric will have you believe we can dilute or reduce visitors. We can control how they interact while visiting the district and how much they pay for services. The Destination Management Plan and Tourism Industry Transformation Plan must drive tourism operators to not just think but act regeneratively. I am doing this with my SME tourism business and my customers are paying for our community and environmental projects that benefit people and place. And regenerative tourism has a commercial benefit, but we need legacy leaders to think about the future, about a win win win approach for all stakeholders both internal and external.  If we scale our regenerative efforts, we could have a visitor economy that works for our district, one we can be proud of. Corporate greed and governance solely driving profits to shareholders must change. Change KPI’s to benefit all stakeholders (Commercial, Environment, Community and Culture). By the way, this is not just a tourisms issue, it exists in many district industries – tech, transport, farming, logistics, construction, retail etc. A diverse economy without community at its heart is just introducing more of the same issues. We all must do better to change our mindset to see business, community, environment, people, are part of the one ecosystem.

Community involvement?

I am standing because I want better community involvement to solve the massive freight train of issues coming at us, but there needs to be far better communication and cross community collaboration from council and from community. No councillor should have just one agenda. Doesn’t mean you need to be an expert, far from it, but you need to lean on community and council to guide decision making and solve the complex issues, together.

Council-led legal review of the QAC constitution?

Yes, if the QAC initiated review was not conducted in a robust and transparent manner and conflicts of interest were not managed well, then I would support a council led review. The history of QAC, QLDC, and community has been highly controversial, and it should be expect there will be a higher level of scrutiny to manage until there is a transparent and trusted relationship. 

If it was not done in a robust, transparent way YES, I hate wasting time, resource, and money because work wasn’t executed or communicated well to the stakeholders.

Council sign-off required on the 10-year Strategic Plan?

YES

Council sign-off required on the Airport Master Plan?

YES

Should QLDC investigate what opportunities/risks exist if Tarras International Airport gets the go-ahead?

YES – but this shouldn’t be a massive cost! A SWOT of the Tarras Airport is just good governance.

Queenstown-Wakatipu Ward / Matt Wong / Esther Whitehead / Gavin Bartlett / Niki Gladding
Arrowtown-Kawarau Ward / Lisa Guy / Neeta Shetty / Craig Ferguson / Danijel Duvnjak


Esther Whitehead

Queenstown Airport air noise boundary expansion?

no

What should be council’s role in the airport’s strategic planning for use of ZQN land in the next 30 to 50 years: Hands On or Hands Off?

Hands on. There is much at stake. The strategic plan talks of growth and ‘magical’ technology as its strategy for reducing carbon footprint. The land use has potential to enhance or degrade the community, therefore we need a say.

Tourism growth – your approach?

Start to strategically plan for capped numbers through our airport and for Destination Queenstown to review its regenerative tourism strategy to talk about managing degrowth in specific areas, types of tourism.

Community involvement?

I will still advocate for sign off on strategic plan and master plan. I’ll ask for specifics around the key assumptions QAC has made in its most recent draft strategy. Their key assumptions put our community’s asset at risk both environmentally and economically by assuming a stable economy and no disruption to the economy for the next 10 years.

Council-led legal review of the QAC constitution?

YES, I have already asked for this in the next triennium.

Council sign-off required on the 10-year Strategic Plan?

Yes

Council sign-off required on the Airport Master Plan?

Yes

Should QLDC investigate what opportunities/risks exist if Tarras International Airport gets the go-ahead?

Yes, it’s made the assumption that it won’t operate in the next 10 years and is therefore not assessing opportunities or risk.

As an incumbent councillor, you are welcome to explain your voting record during this term on the above issues.

I 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 and stopping ANB expansion, clearly understands council’s legal powers to do so, and has actively promoted this through moving strategic resolutions since becoming a councillor in a by-election 15 months ago.

Queenstown-Wakatipu Ward / Matt Wong / Esther Whitehead / Gavin Bartlett / Niki Gladding
Arrowtown-Kawarau Ward / Lisa Guy / Neeta Shetty / Craig Ferguson / Danijel Duvnjak


Gavin Bartlett

Queenstown Airport air noise boundary expansion?

I would not support an expansion of the Queenstown Airport Noise Boundaries.

What should be council’s role in the airport’s strategic planning for use of ZQN land in the next 30 to 50 years: Hands On or Hands Off?

Hands on. I would like to see QLDC take a more ‘hands on’ role in the strategic planning of Queenstown Airport and land.

Tourism growth – your approach?

I think there are valid concerns around tourism levels returning to pre-covid levels.  I would like to see a coordinated tourism strategy across the southern region, making better use of the existing airports at Dunedin and Invercargill and looking at providing transport links between these centres and the Queenstown Lakes district.

Community involvement?

The community has shown that it has a significant interest in the actions and operations of the airport, and greater community involvement should be catered for.

Council-led legal review of the QAC constitution?

The option for a Council-led legal review of the QAC constitution should at least be offered for discussion/debate.

Council sign-off required on the 10-year Strategic Plan?

Council should be asked to review, provide input and accept (when satisfied) a 10-year strategic plan for a Council Controlled Trading Organisation.

Council sign-off required on the Airport Master Plan?

Similar to the above, Council should be asked to review, provide input and accept (when satisfied) an Airport Master Plan for an airport which is a Council Controlled Trading Organisation.

Should QLDC investigate what opportunities/risks exist if Tarras International Airport gets the go-ahead?

The proposed Tarras Airport project is outside of QAC and QLDC influence and control, but it would be prudent for QLDC to investigate both the risks and opportunities to the wider Queenstown Lakes district associated with the project should it go ahead (and indeed if it does not).

Queenstown-Wakatipu Ward / Matt Wong / Esther Whitehead / Gavin Bartlett / Niki Gladding
Arrowtown-Kawarau Ward / Lisa Guy / Neeta Shetty / Craig Ferguson / Danijel Duvnjak


Niki Gladding

Queenstown Airport air noise boundary expansion?

NO

What should be council’s role in the airport’s strategic planning for use of ZQN land in the next 30 to 50 years: Hands On or Hands Off?

Hands on.

The airport’s strategic plan needs to respond to growth pressures, the climate emergency and AIAL’s proposal for Tarras.  There are plenty of value judgements to be made and I believe those should sit with elected representatives rather than experts in corporate governance.    Personally, I’d like to see: QAC limit growth by not expanding the terminal; debt remain low so we can retain control of the asset in all future scenarios; and a sinking lid on the aircraft emissions ZQN enables.  But these are complex decisions with huge consequences and so they need to be made with community input.

Council’s role in the Strategic Planning process should include:

  1. Amending the constitution to ensure the right drivers are in place; 
  2. Modifying the SOI to uncouple QAC’s strategic planning from current visitor demand projections and to require council sign-off of QAC’s Strategic Plan before it can be implemented;  
  3. Commissioning an independent risk assessment of its investment in QAC under different future scenarios (taking Tarras and climate change into account);  
  4. Facilitating a discussion with the community about the costs, benefits, risks and opportunities of different strategic scenarios for our Airport and Airport land.

Tourism growth – your approach?

We’re facing global uncertainty, so we need to be very careful and very clever about our private and public investments in this district.  Currently,  QLDC is investing in line with projected peak visitor numbers on the assumption that it can’t limit those numbers.  I don’t support that assumption or that approach. 

I believe that in the first instance, QLDC needs to facilitate an informed discussion with the community about:

  1. The costs and benefits of allowing tourism growth in line with projected demand;  
  2. The risks of investing or not investing in tourism infrastructure in line with projected peak demand;  
  3. The rate of tourism growth or degrowth the community would ideally like to see; and  
  4. The levers QLDC has to limit growth and how they could be used to achieve growth in line with the community’s (informed) position.   

Community involvement?

YES

Council-led legal review of the QAC constitution?

YES

Council sign-off required on the 10-year Strategic Plan?

YES

Council sign-off required on the Airport Master Plan?

YES

Should QLDC investigate what opportunities/risks exist if Tarras International Airport gets the go-ahead?

YES

As an incumbent councillor, you are welcome to explain your voting record during this term on the above issues.

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 consistently and staunchly advocated for stopping ZQN’s ANB expansion and improved governance of QAC throughout the past term. (The other two being Cr Shaw, sadly not standing again, and Cr Quentin Smith, standing in Wānaka). 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. Her diligent activism would be much more effective with colleagues who understood and applied their governance role with QAC, as we are hoping for this term.

Queenstown-Wakatipu Ward / Matt Wong / Esther Whitehead / Gavin Bartlett / Niki Gladding
Arrowtown-Kawarau Ward / Lisa Guy / Neeta Shetty / Craig Ferguson / Danijel Duvnjak


Arrowtown-Kawarau Ward


Lisa Guy

Queenstown Airport air noise boundary expansion?

Overwhelming level of public feedback against this, I’d represent our communities wishes to not increase air noise boundary expansion.

What should be council’s role in the airport’s strategic planning for use of ZQN land in the next 30 to 50 years: Hands On or Hands Off?

Council are responsible for strategic oversight and good governance of our district and are the super-majority shareholder of QAC assets – while I’m on a learning curve as to how this applies in reality, I’m assuming a level of strategic sign off would be the least required.

Tourism growth – your approach?

Many conversations to be had about how we may re-engineer and focus tourism to regenerative and sustainable outcomes. This is a nationwide issue. Addressing things locally while important, may only push the problem around the country. There is much we can do to move our provision of visitor experiences, products, and services with respect for Earths environmental ceilings. I’m in support of a nationwide tourism levy. Every day a New Zealander carries the burden of at least one other visitor. Respect for people, place and productivity requires targeted funding to ensure we can invest in infrastructure and continue to strive towards more sustainable outcomes.

Community involvement?

Community involvement is critical to my overall approach to good governance. I will be focused on communicating and engaging with people to ensure we are all well informed on local issues and make any decisions based on clear demonstratable evidence of what our constituents want 

Council-led legal review of the QAC constitution?

Not yet informed enough on this issue to respond.

Council sign-off required on the 10-year Strategic Plan?

Yes

Council sign-off required on the Airport Master Plan?

Yes

Should QLDC investigate what opportunities/risks exist if Tarras International Airport gets the go-ahead?

Yes

Queenstown-Wakatipu Ward / Matt Wong / Esther Whitehead / Gavin Bartlett / Niki Gladding
Arrowtown-Kawarau Ward / Lisa Guy / Neeta Shetty / Craig Ferguson / Danijel Duvnjak


Neeta Shetty

Queenstown Airport air noise boundary expansion?

No.

Air traffic control technology and airport design are being used globally to help reduce aircraft noise for people on the ground. Innovation and technology must be pioneered when considering the effects of our airport.

What should be council’s role in the airport’s strategic planning for use of ZQN land in the next 30 to 50 years: Hands On or Hands Off?

The council must have a ‘hands-on’ approach.

It is imperative for QLDC to have an active and involved role in the airport’s strategic planning. As stated by QAC, “strategic planning of the aviation facility is complicated and requires consultation.” I would think that by QAC’s own admission, QLDC must be a vested interest in the consultation as the key voice of the community and major shareholder.

Tourism growth – your approach?

Tourism brings opportunities to our region. Tourism places our nation and particularly our region on the global map. Tourism is one of the ways that we could attract investments for our economic diversity. Our visitors bring a vibrancy to our region and take back with them stories of our people, history and culture. However, we must manage our tourism efficiently and effectively. We could set the benchmark for both sustainable tourism and growth if we can adjust our priorities to include climate change, our environment and the community at the heart of our policies. Our goal must be to provide our residents and our tourist an exceptional Queenstown-Lakes experience without compromising the integrity of our environment.

Community involvement?

My only vested interest is as a community member, so community involvement in council decision is non-negotiable for me. I am not in favour of closed-door meetings as it is my belief that the best and most pragmatic approaches are community-led. Notwithstanding, the council is using public money for these decisions, so community involvement is pivotal.

Council-led legal review of the QAC constitution?

Yes.

We need to have a review of the QAC constitution. It is also important that we do this in a timely manner.

Council sign-off required on the 10-year Strategic Plan?

Yes.

Councillors recommendation on the draft SoE provides for a transparent process that keeps all parties accountable.

Council sign-off required on the Airport Master Plan?

Yes.

With the unscrupulous Wanaka Airport lease, council has a responsibility to ensure  that the Airport Master Plan is signed off; so the public can trust that the council has acted in the best interest of the community.

Should QLDC investigate what opportunities/risks exist if Tarras International Airport gets the go-ahead?

No.

I’m not convinced there is an immediate need for an international airport of such magnitude, albeit outside of our district but within such close proximity. With the uncertainty of the current times, we must make prudent decisions with our resource – environmental, monetary and social. Apart from a colossal environmental issue and with a massive carbon footprint, the airport is also an economic concern to the Queenstown-Lakes – as the Tarras Airport threatens the our district’s niche existence.

Queenstown-Wakatipu Ward / Matt Wong / Esther Whitehead / Gavin Bartlett / Niki Gladding
Arrowtown-Kawarau Ward / Lisa Guy / Neeta Shetty / Craig Ferguson / Danijel Duvnjak


Nell Hunter

Nell provided the following general comment to cover all questions.

Our airport is expected to complete a master plan in 2022/23 which will be Council led.  Council’s direction to the airport needs be practical and focus on solving local problems.

I understand that a lot of people are concerned about the noise from the Airport.  At the same time many others love the convenience of it.  Council should expect the airport to balance these competing interests carefully and find smart solutions.   

We need to connect Queenstown to the world while minimising the impact on our other infrastructure and also amenity value.  For example, why not encourage an easy direct bus from the airport that directly connects travellers into town to reduce the traffic impact on Frankton Road?  Right now the bus from the airport is slow and travellers are expected to buy a local bus pass with NZD.  Why not take a credit card like most modern bus services?

In terms of tourism growth, many of our most important businesses rely on tourism.  We can’t get in their way.  At the same time we do need to recognise that ratepayers shouldn’t subsidise services for tourists.  We need to think carefully about how we can share the costs more fairly. With regard to the proposed Tarras Airport, Queenstown-Lakes should look at the opportunities.  More options are better than fewer.  If it did become a realistic opportunity to build an airport, the transport links through the gorge would need a major upgrade, but Council should be demanding that anyway!

[WLW note: QAC, not council, is writing the master plan.]

Queenstown-Wakatipu Ward / Matt Wong / Esther Whitehead / Gavin Bartlett / Niki Gladding
Arrowtown-Kawarau Ward / Lisa Guy / Neeta Shetty / Craig Ferguson / Danijel Duvnjak


Craig Ferguson

Received after deadline

Queenstown Airport air noise boundary expansion?

NO

What should be council’s role in the airport’s strategic planning for use of ZQN land in the next 30 to 50 years: Hands On or Hands Off?

Hands off

Tourism growth – your approach?

Manageable, liveable, but will be able to control. Thats a worry for me.

Community involvement?

Absolutely

Council-led legal review of the QAC constitution?

No

Council sign-off required on the 10-year Strategic Plan?

No, I have faith in the board but Council need to be more than a partner. The

Council sign-off required on the Airport Master Plan?

Yes but

Should QLDC investigate what opportunities/risks exist if Tarras International Airport gets the go-ahead?

All I would say is that we need to take Tarras seriously.

As an incumbent councillor, you are welcome to explain your voting record during this term on the above issues.

(No comment provided)

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. Some examples of his 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.

Queenstown-Wakatipu Ward / Matt Wong / Esther Whitehead / Gavin Bartlett / Niki Gladding
Arrowtown-Kawarau Ward / Lisa Guy / Neeta Shetty / Craig Ferguson / Danijel Duvnjak


Danijel Duvnjak

Received after deadline

Queenstown Airport air noise boundary expansion?

No

What should be council’s role in the airport’s strategic planning for use of ZQN land in the next 30 to 50 years: Hands On or Hands Off?

Hands on

Tourism growth – your approach?

I suggest that we direct our focus toward the remote workers. They come here for a reason (ski season or MTB season etc,) stay for a season and return over a lifetime. To me, there is an opportunity to  bring the into our community as often returning g members.

Community involvement?

More of what you are doing, with the backing and support of the council.

Council-led legal review of the QAC constitution?

Yes

Council sign-off required on the 10-year Strategic Plan?

Yes

Council sign-off required on the Airport Master Plan?

Yes

Should QLDC investigate what opportunities/risks exist if Tarras International Airport gets the go-ahead?

Yes

Queenstown-Wakatipu Ward / Matt Wong / Esther Whitehead / Gavin Bartlett / Niki Gladding
Arrowtown-Kawarau Ward / Lisa Guy / Neeta Shetty / Craig Ferguson / Danijel Duvnjak

On the QLDC election hustings three years ago, every candidate but for Jim Boult and Heath Copland promised to oppose air noise boundary expansion at Queenstown Airport. Most of them broke that promise.

Poor governance of Queenstown Airport Corporation by Council has been a serious issue over this past term, as proper process and democracy were ignored in favour of a pro-growth agenda.

So this election, We Love Wakatipu Inc wrote to all mayoral and Wakatipu ward councillor candidates to get their election commitments in writing.  So that voters know what they are voting for and in the hope that it will lead to more integrity between campaign promises and successful candidates’ actions.  Note those who didn’t find time to respond, despite two reminders and a deadline extension.

We also took the opportunity to give a brief “airport governance 101” backgrounder so that new councillors know they have the legal power to direct QAC strategic directives and scope of activities. And to help them recognise when they are being fed inaccurate or inadequate advice.

The questions we asked:

  1. Queenstown Airport air noise boundary expansion?
  2. What should be council’s role in the airport’s strategic planning for use of ZQN land in the next 30 to 50 years: Hands On or Hands Off?
  3. Tourism growth – your approach?
  4. Community involvement?
  5. Council-led legal review of the QAC constitution?
  6. Council sign-off required on the 10-year Strategic Plan?
  7. Council sign-off required on the Airport Master Plan?
  8. Should QLDC investigate what opportunities/risks exist if Tarras International Airport gets the go-ahead?

Candidates are listed in the order we received their response, and the answers are presented as they were written.

Scroll the page or go directly to:

LINK to: Jon Mitchell, Al Angus, Neeta Shetty, Glyn Lewers, Olivia Wensley


Jon Mitchell

Jon Mitchell: photo supplied

Queenstown Airport air noise boundary expansion?

NO.

With improving technology, enabling quieter and more efficient aircraft, there is no need to expand the boundaries.

What should be council’s role in the airport’s strategic planning for use of ZQN land in the next 30 to 50 years: Hands On or Hands Off?

Hands On

Council should take considerably more of a leadership role in the future direction of the airport, in relation to providing a clear statement of expectations to the QAC board each year, allowing time between receiving the QAC statement of intent to consider and, if necessary, publicly consult on the statement of intent, as well as ensuring the QAC strategic plan is fully consulted on each time it updated.

Beyond that, the next spatial plan process should be far more inclusive and flexibly future-focused, including consideration of all potential future uses of the land that Queenstown Airport is located on, to provide for and manage significant changes in air and land transport technology and location options.

Tourism growth – your approach?

My vision is for a transformed tourism sector that relies more on locally resident talent and less on visiting workers, in an increasingly thriving, sustainable, resilient, and diverse economy.  It’s about balance.

We need to:

  • Avoid a return to unsustainable pre-COVID mass-tourism growth rates.
  • Immediately review the assumptions and intent of the district plan, spatial plan, and council long-term plan, to enable sustainable, managed, low-growth targets.
  • Develop differential rating to reduce reliance on residential visitor accommodation (AirBnB).
  • Smooth demand across the year – encouraging events and conferences in shoulder seasons.
  • Actively encourage longer-stay tourism, reducing congestion and long-haul CO2 generation.
  • Encourage and enable the transition to e-transport for tourist and resident travel needs.
  • Enable a thriving local tertiary education sector and the seasonal workforce it will bring.
  • Provide for and protect our social, cultural, natural, and economic environment to continue to attract and welcome new workers, entrepreneurs, and enterprises at a pace that we and our environment can accommodate.
  • Reduce the worker housing crisis through a public-private housing task force, with government support, to provide immediate temporary and longer-term permanent solutions.

Not one of these will solve our over-tourism crisis alone, but all of them and more together will make a real difference.

Community involvement?

Yes

The communities of the district need to be enabled to be significantly more engaged in strategic visioning and decision-making for the district – including the future of our airports and of air travel within integrated regional transport planning.

Council-led legal review of the QAC constitution?

Yes

The council, as super-majority shareholder, needs to take ownership of revising the QAC constitution to ensure that the well-being intent of Council’s ownership of the company is reflected and delivered to, provide for a continued income stream to Council, and prevent further reduction in the community’s ownership of the company.

Council sign-off required on the 10-year Strategic Plan?

Yes

The airport and Queenstown Airport Corporation are strategic assets for the district.  The council, as majority shareholder on behalf of our communities, has to be able to exercise strategic control over airports in the district.

Council sign-off required on the Airport Master Plan?

Yes

Yes, until trust is restored between QAC and the community. The future nature and operation of the airport have flow-on effects to the immediate area of the airport and the wider district.  The council must re-establish governance oversight of our airports.

Should QLDC investigate what opportunities/risks exist if Tarras International Airport gets the go-ahead?

Yes

We, as a district, must be fully aware of the risks and opportunities that might come from a regional-scale airport at Tarras, or anywhere else one is proposed, to inform our collective decision-making. 

Anyone making adamant statements for or against any airport development will only result in those making those statements being shut out of any future decision-making, as this would be “pre-determination”.

LINK to: Jon Mitchell, Al Angus, Neeta Shetty, Glyn Lewers, Olivia Wensley


Al Angus

Al Angus: photo supplied

Queenstown Airport air noise boundary expansion?

No, in fact qldc should have the power to wind back the noise boundary’s as a mechanism to regulate over tourism.

What should be council’s role in the airport’s strategic planning for use of ZQN land in the next 30 to 50 years: Hands On or Hands Off?

Very hands on, with the whole of the elected councillors involved, and kept up to date with the outcomes of ALL meetings related to QAC

Tourism growth – your approach?

The covid lockdown gave many of us a welcome respite from the environmental devastation of mass/over tourism, but it seems nothing has been learned and the district is rushing back to the mess that was . I believe there is a correction happening already.

Community involvement?

Absolutely, If there had have been community involvement in the original selling of 25% It would have been stopped and not the catalyst for the current situation. We would also still have a world class aero club instead of another car rental.

Council-led legal review of the QAC constitution?

Yes

Council sign-off required on the 10-year Strategic Plan?

Yes

Council sign-off required on the Airport Master Plan?

Yes

Should QLDC investigate what opportunities/risks exist if Tarras International Airport gets the go-ahead?

Yes

LINK to: Jon Mitchell, Al Angus, Neeta Shetty, Glyn Lewers, Olivia Wensley


Neeta Shetty

Neeta Shetty: photo supplied

Queenstown Airport air noise boundary expansion?

No.

Air traffic control technology and airport design are being used globally to help reduce aircraft noise for people on the ground. Innovation and technology must be pioneered when considering the effects of our airport.

What should be council’s role in the airport’s strategic planning for use of ZQN land in the next 30 to 50 years: Hands On or Hands Off?

The council must have a ‘hands-on’ approach.

It is imperative for QLDC to have an active and involved role in the airport’s strategic planning. As stated by QAC, “strategic planning of the aviation facility is complicated and requires consultation.” I would think that by QAC’s own admission, QLDC must be a vested interest in the consultation as the key voice of the community and major shareholder.

Tourism growth – your approach?

Tourism brings opportunities to our region. Tourism places our nation and particularly our region on the global map. Tourism is one of the ways that we could attract investments for our economic diversity. Our visitors bring a vibrancy to our region and take back with them stories of our people, history and culture.

However, we must manage our tourism efficiently and effectively. We could set the benchmark for both sustainable tourism and growth if we can adjust our priorities to include climate change, our environment and the community at the heart of our policies. Our goal must be to provide our residents and our tourist an exceptional Queenstown-Lakes experience without compromising the integrity of our environment.

Community involvement?

My only vested interest is as a community member, so community involvement in council decision is non-negotiable for me. I am not in favour of closed-door meetings as it is my belief that the best and most pragmatic approaches are community-led. Notwithstanding, the council is using public money for these decisions, so community involvement is pivotal.

Council-led legal review of the QAC constitution?

Yes.

We need to have a review of the QAC constitution. It is also important that we do this in a timely manner.

Council sign-off required on the 10-year Strategic Plan?

Yes.

Councillors recommendation on the draft SoE provides for a transparent process that keeps all parties accountable.

Council sign-off required on the Airport Master Plan?

Yes.

With the unscrupulous Wanaka Airport lease, council has a responsibility to ensure  that the Airport Master Plan is signed off; so the public can trust that the council has acted in the best interest of the community.

Should QLDC investigate what opportunities/risks exist if Tarras International Airport gets the go-ahead?

No.

I’m not convinced there is an immediate need for an international airport of such magnitude, albeit outside of our district but within such close proximity. With the uncertainty of the current times, we must make prudent decisions with our resource – environmental, monetary and social. Apart from a colossal environmental issue and with a massive carbon footprint, the airport is also an economic concern to the Queenstown-Lakes – as the Tarras Airport threatens our district’s niche existence.

LINK to: Jon Mitchell, Al Angus, Neeta Shetty, Glyn Lewers, Olivia Wensley


Glyn Lewers

Glyn Lewers: photo supplied

Queenstown Airport air noise boundary expansion?

The Air Noise Boundary expansion is off the table. The Airport and the Council have said no to any expansion over the last three years and have said no for the coming 10 years. So it’s a No

What should be council’s role in the airport’s strategic planning for use of ZQN land in the next 30 to 50 years: Hands On or Hands Off?

In my view, innovation and productivity gains come with a bottom-up approach; some may call it hands-off. The office of the Auditor General has endorsed this approach. We, as councillors, do not know how to run an airport. We have directed them to the plans we want them to follow. For example, the spatial plan, the current Airport governance team and the executive are doing an outstanding job in some of the most demanding operating conditions to respond to the many needs of the district’s community. They are currently thinking ahead for the next ten years and beyond. An airport needs to think long term as the infrastructure requirements are critical and long-lasting. I think the airport should be looking at diversifying its income from landing fees, utilising its unused land holding, and developing plans to enhance the user experience within the campus.

Tourism growth – your approach?

Implement the Destination Management plan. It is foolish to think we can control numbers, but we effectively limited arrivals by air by halting air noise boundary expansion for the next ten years. We now have to concentrate on land-based transport solutions to deal with the bounce back.

Community involvement?

As Frankton Community Chairperson I had easy access to the airport executive and could make the community’s voice heard. I have always found the airport executive approachable and keen to listen to the community. I am pleased that is what they will be doing with respect to the Master plan which will happen early next year.

Council-led legal review of the QAC constitution?

We have already discussed this at the Council table, and it was decided not to go ahead, as we deemed it fit for purpose given the various legislative requirements an airport company has to meet.

Council sign-off required on the 10-year Strategic Plan?

The strategic plan is already in the draft; Council has given their feedback and will soon be released for all to see. It has not varied from the strategic outcomes listed in the current Statement of Intent, so there is no need to go back and relitigate an already approved process

Council sign-off required on the Airport Master Plan?

This has already been decided. The Master plan will come to Council after it has been consulted on with the community.

[WLW note: The 2023-2025 Statement of Intent says the QAC board “will report the final master plan to shareholders and seek shareholder endorsement of the final master plan before any final approval by the board.” The word seek does not mean require, so the current SOI does not require council sign-off on the master plan. It will be shared with the council, but the SOI makes clear there is no requirement for the QAC board to act on any council feedback.]

Should QLDC investigate what opportunities/risks exist if Tarras International Airport gets the go-ahead?

If Tarras gets approval, QAC will have ample opportunity to assess the opportunities and risks. At this stage, I would rather have the airport concentrate on rebuilding its business after Covid for the well-being of the community.

As an incumbent councillor, you are welcome to explain your voting record during this term on the above issues.

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.

LINK to: Jon Mitchell, Al Angus, Neeta Shetty, Glyn Lewers, Olivia Wensley


Olivia Wensley

Response received after deadline

Olivia Wensley: no photo supplied. This image cropped from photo at the recent Catalyst Mayoral Forum

Queenstown Airport air noise boundary expansion?

No – I do not support any expansion of the airport

What should be council’s role in the airport’s strategic planning for use of ZQN land in the next 30 to 50 years: Hands On or Hands Off?

Hands on: Yes

Tourism growth – your approach?

Only 2% of residents want tourism growth to increase from 2019 levels – I intend to listen to the community and will not be supporting unrestrained growth.

Community involvement?

The community should be involved in such important decision.

Council-led legal review of the QAC constitution?

Yes

Council sign-off required on the 10-year Strategic Plan?

Yes

Council sign-off required on the Airport Master Plan?

Yes

Should QLDC investigate what opportunities/risks exist if Tarras International Airport gets the go-ahead?

Yes – we need to understand the potential impact on our region.

WLW comment:  It is concerning that Ms Wensley’s most prominent and vocal backer, Rod Drury, is now a significant shareholder of the company that caused the major but unacknowledged conflicts of interest for current Mayor Jim Boult on many issues, especially the airport. Mr Boult was chair of the  South Island’s largest tourism company – known variously as Real Journeys, Wayfare then RealNZ – through this past term. He moved on after Drury and others came on board.  Most of RealNZ’s businesses are reliant on mass tourism, for which limiting airport  noise would be anathema. Billionaire Drury  has been vocal about what he thinks the future of Queenstown Lakes should be since moving here recently. This included opening up ownership of Wakatipu basin land to wealthy overseas people during Covid.


LINK to: Jon Mitchell, Al Angus, Neeta Shetty, Glyn Lewers, Olivia Wensley

Air NZ loading at ZQN

LWB’s Queenstown Business newsletter, 22 August 2022

LWB’s Queenstown Business newsletter played defence for ZQN this week, after an earlier commentary in LWB by Flightplan 2050 about opportunities offered for urban development on Frankton Flats land should Tarras Airport go ahead.

Commentaries were provided by QAC CEO Glen Sowry, DQ and four of the mayoral candidates on the link below, about their thoughts on ZQN, its future and its governance.

We Love Wakatipu Inc asked Sowry to clarify two of his comments, which seemed to offer more than either he or QAC have committed to in the past. The quotes and his clarifications follow…

Qn Business quote: “We’ve committed to operating within our existing noise boundaries for the next ten years and beyond.”

Glen’s further comment: Over the last year we have worked on our 10-year Strategic Plan which will be made public in the coming months. As part of that work, as you know, we have publicly committed not to seek an expansion to the existing air noise boundaries in that time. My statement refers to  the opportunity we have to carefully manage moderate and sustainable growth within that period and beyond within the existing air noise boundaries. That was certainly the intent of the statement.

Qn Business quote: “In the coming year there will be an opportunity for the communities across this region to contribute to the future of Queenstown Airport through the formal consultation on our draft master plan that we’ll be conducting in partnership with Queenstown Lakes District Council.”

Glen’s further comment: The importance of open dialogue with the communities of the Queenstown Lakes District regarding the future of Queenstown Airport is well understood and the board of directors and management team are genuinely committed to community consultation as we plan for the future of the airport.

With regard to stakeholder and community engagement on the Queenstown Airport master plan, our position was that it was not appropriate for QLDC to lead all engagement on the draft master plan as QLDC had proposed. This was because an airport masterplan is a complex and highly technical document that presents a long-term view. Whilst the QLDC residents are a priority stakeholder group, they are not the only stakeholder group. During the consultation process we must consult with the Civil Aviation Authority, Airways, our scheduled airline customers, and non-scheduled aviation operators, as well as our commercial tenants and the business community. The masterplan preparation process must also consider and satisfy important safety obligations, both aviation and seismic, and meet regulatory compliance obligations.

These governance responsibilities are well defined in legislation. QAC is an ‘airport authority’ under the Airport Authorities Act, a ‘council-controlled trading organisation’ (CCTO) under the Local Government Act, an ‘aerodrome operator’ under Civil Aviation Rule Part 139 and the Civil Aviation Act and a network utility operator and a requiring authority under section 166 of the Resource Management Act. Queenstown Airport must also be maintained as a lifeline utility under the Civil Defence Emergency Management Act.

This position does not diminish the importance we place on structured community engagement.  Therefore, as outlined in the SOI we will follow a structured community engagement process on the Queenstown Airport draft master plan, once endorsed by Council, in partnership with QLDC, but not led by QLDC. Please refer to page 21 FY23 SOI which clearly states that we will follow a structured community engagement process on the Queenstown Airport draft master plan in partnership with QLDC, before a final master plan is prepared.

I do want to clearly reaffirm our commitment to community consultation as we plan for the future of the airport, and that that process will be developed and informed by the principles on consultation in s82 of the Local Government Act 2002, as noted in the SOI.

So now you know…

And here’s the link to Queenstown Business

2022-06-30, Full Council, SOI, Cath

We Love Wakatipu Inc commentary, QLDC meeting 30 June 2022

Despite three times clearly instructing Queenstown Airport Corporation that councillors must give final approval of both the 10 year strategic plan and the airport masterplan before implementation, most councillors instead decided that showing their respect and trust for QAC was more important.

Regardless of the fact that QAC’s rejection of their governance for the Statement of Intent smacked of lack of respect and trust for them.  And that they have the legal right to require QAC to change the SOI to meet their strategic objectives and QAC must comply.

Below we provide a synopsis of who said what at QLDC’s 30 June meeting. But perhaps equally important was who chose to say nothing on what has been one of this council’s greatest governance failures.

Who did what?

Four councillors contributed nothing to the debate. So we don’t know why Crs Glyn Lewers, Heath Copland, Val Miller and Jim Boult voted to give QAC pretty much total control of Queenstown Airport’s future direction. In fact, we don’t remember Cr Copland ever saying anything in public on the airport. Cr ‘Ferg’ Ferguson was absent, but his voting record shows he tends to go with the Boult flow.

Cr Niki Gladding put a resolution to say no to the SOI until it committed to Council approval of Strategic Plan, seconded by Cr Esther Whitehead.

A brief synopsis of the minimal discussion that followed

Cr Niki Gladding:
QAC promised active involvement with councillors on the strategic plan, but in the year since, there has been none despite the SOI containing two pages of the bases thereof. Approving a plan without having seen it was a risk she was not prepared to take on behalf of ratepayers.

Cr Esther Whitehead:
This process again showed why a governance manual was needed, as their discussions and process just perpetuated confusion and time and time again, council was reactive. This wasn’t about trust but meeting council’s legal obligations. Agreeing to an SOI without commitment to council’s clear instructions on Strategic Plan approval did not achieve this.

Cr Niamh Shaw:
Important that both the Master Plan and Strategic Plan should be approved by council before implementation. The agenda item offered only one option, whereas they could also not agree to it and require the SOI be modified. Up to the June 2019 SOI agenda item, councillors were advised they had the “not agree” option. Somehow, since then, this has been removed from all council agendas referring to the SOI. Council’s statement of expectations was exceptionally clear, re-emphasised in April and again in May. Very little discussion of councillors’ responsibility to represent all community interests, not just the economy. No discussion re growth, nor destination management plan. 

No other councillors spoke to the amendment, so we have no idea what they thought (or whether they did). Only the three councillors who spoke voted for it.

So they moved to the substantive motion, that the SOI be agreed to despite it ignoring their governance instruction. Then who said what?

Cr Quentin Smith:
Was sympathetic to Cr Gladding’s motion but doesn’t think it’s helpful to decline another SOI when there’s been a substantial improvement in the relationship. Significantly better by requiring endorsement of Master Plan (WLW: no it doesn’t, just said QAC will seek endorsement, but preserves the right for QAC board to approve it regardless), Wanaka Airport being extracted and strong commitment to not expanding air noise boundaries. The difference between requiring and seeking endorsement is only semantics, and suggests it would be a very brave board if it chose to implement the strategic plan without Council approval. If there had been an easy way to require council approval of the Strategic Plan, he would have. (WLW: okay, so it’s easier to agree, but there is a legal and straightforward process to achieve what they said they wanted, which council can stipulate as majority shareholder under QAC’s constitution. And QAC’s 2010 sale of 24.99% of airport shares without informing, much less getting approval from, council suggests they are plenty brave enough.)

Cr Calum MacLeod:
Not a huge fan of alternative motions on the day, would have liked an opportunity to discuss it. (WLW: this meeting was that opportunity, unless he only wanted to do so behind closed doors rather than in public.) Borderline exhausted just trying to keep things in play. Not good enough to get alternatives half an hour before a meeting, despite having parts he agreed with. His discussions with the board and CEO suggest they are heading in the same direction, and in his humble opinion, there is no way councillors could reject another SOI. The community is hurting. But we do need to acknowledge the carbon footprint, that is the future, and the board needs to turn its mind to it. This year’s SOI is much better than previous ones.

Cr Penny Clark:
Councillors made a real commitment to building and restoring trust with QAC, have made some huge progress, and we’ve got to fulfill our part of the bargain here. Thinks we’re splitting hairs – endorsement means agree. (WLW: she doesn’t realise the primary issue is in the word “seek” versus “require” such endorsement, which isn’t splitting hairs, it’s council being given a brutal haircut.)  Board and chairman (WLW: the chair is a woman) working hard to build trust. Heard from a tourist yesterday that they loved our airport, wasn’t that nice to hear. Slightly spoiled because it took 45 minutes to drive into town, however we won’t go there. Be trusting in our board and CEO and move forward.

Cr Niki Gladding:
Speaking to her motion, motions need to be able to be made on the day and discussed in public at the meeting. Of course we can turn this down, the legal process is there for that specific reason. Not expressing distrust or disrespect, but do not see how it’s acceptable for QAC board to disregard our instructions but not for us to ask them to please change this one point. Respect and trust needs to both ways and it feels very one-sided. We have repeatedly pointed out this disregard of our instruction. Her obligation is not to the board and the board’s feelings. This is a legal arrangement, her obligations are to our community. And we shouldn’t forget what happened in 2010, when a few words were inserted in the SOI that didn’t look like anything at all, and from that had a 24.99 % share sale that councillors knew nothing of. Agreeing to the SOI would mean councillors were allowing an entire plan that we don’t understand the nature or scope of to sit within our SOI. That’s so irresponsible and it’s a massive risk that everyone’s taking on behalf of the ratepayers.

Cr Esther Whitehead:
Zoom out and stop talking about trust issues, it’s about our partnership agreement. This is about process, not people. It’s about securing agreement that fulfills obligations to both parties. What’s happening with our carbon offsets? That’s what this is about.

Councillors Whitehead, Shaw, Gladding and Smith voted against agreeing to the SOI.

All others voted in favour of it, despite QAC ignoring their thrice expressed and explicit governance requiring Council approval of strategic and master plans for this community’s most valuable land resource.