DQ “Special Remarks” email to members, 25 June 2021

It will be interesting to see how much of a say the community has in this regenerative tourism plan – with DQ, Lake Wanaka Tourism and QLDC in charge of the process. Community does get mentioned, but peripherally.

LINK HERE to the newsletter.

Otago Daily Times, 26.05.21

Finance Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Grant Robertson says the government will not step into Christchurch International Airport Limited’s Tarras International Airport decision-making process.

We Love Wakatipu Inc submitted to the national infrastructure plan that airport infrastructure should come under a national aviation body because the costs, land use, climate change and other impacts should not be decided by competing local authorities.

But he did say the project would need resource consent, a public process where effects on both local community and environment would be tested.

A correction was put in the ODT the following day, stating the asset value of the Christchurch International Airport is $1.8 billion and CIAL did pay a dividend, of $20 million, in the pandemic-afflicted 2020 financial year. 

QAC didn’t pay any dividend in 2020 and none is expected this year.

May 24, 2021

Dear all,

it’s been a long time since a We Love Wakatipu Inc catch up newsletter, and a heck of a lot has been happening despite Covid 19’s aviation and global tourism slowdown.

We will keep it as short as we can by including links to our Facebook posts so that those who want to take deeper dives into the issues can do so. So grab a coffee or something stiffer and here’s your chance to catch up with happenings on the QAC and council fronts over the last 6 months.

Council by-election – happening now!

If you are a registered Wakatipu ward voter, you should have received your voting papers. Your choice is between retired lawyer, rugby stalwart and community man Phil Wilson, father of Mayor Boult’s executive assistant, or businesswoman, local Kiwi Harvest founder, sustainability and community advocate Esther Whitehead. Read here for their views on airports, growth and how they might help our local democracy work better.

In summary, it is a choice between same old same old or the chance to move our council towards a more democratic, representative and thinking model. This link also says what to do if you haven’t received your voting papers, who is eligible to vote and how to get on the special roll if you aren’t registered. You need to get your papers into council by noon on June 11.

In case the above was too subtle, please vote for Esther if you want to Protect Queenstown! (PS Emily Rutherford has withdrawn her candidacy.  Please don’t waste your vote.)

High Court overturns Council’s illegal Wanaka Airport lease

Council has announced they won’t appeal the High Court’s judgement that their 100-year lease of Wanaka Airport to QAC was illegal because of inadequate consultation and improper process.  Here is a news item on the judgement and here is  Cr Niamh Shaw’s post showing some of the reasoning behind it.

We don’t know what the impacts of this will be for council’s and QAC’s much vaunted “dual airport strategy,” which relies on development of Wanaka Airport to absorb the excess millions of passengers that ZQN’s runway can never be lengthened enough for. It is highly unlikely it will be the end of QAC’s and council’s push in this direction. 

But at least council leadership and the executive team have decided not to waste even more hundreds of thousands of ratepayer dollars trying to justify their illegal and poor process to push purposes contrary to clearly stated community wishes.

Council’s 10-year plan

Minimal mention of airports or climate change mitigation in this supposedly strategic document, beyond that council “expects” QAC to be carbon neutral by 2050.

Note that this is ground operations only – it does not include flights. Really?  Our councillors don’t expect QAC to be capable of reaching this non-stretch target for another 29 years? Wow. Christchurch International Airport is already just 10% short of ground ops carbon neutrality.  Maybe we should get them to run our airports as well as Tarras :-)?

Draft spatial plan

This tripartite plan – with central government (NZTA and MBIE), Kai Tahu and QLDC at the table – will guide long-term infrastructural investment by all three entities throughout Queenstown Lakes District for the next 30 years.

The draft plan has two basic assumptions – continued growth of both airports in situ, and continued visitor/population growth at pre-Covid levels.

Here is our written submission, pointing out that these assumptions ignore community well-being (council’s mandated responsibility) and strong feedback across multiple consultation documents, along with other fundamental flaws.

Here is our five minutes’ input to the joint hearing.

We and others, including Kelvin Peninsula Community Association and FlightPlan2050, also pointed out that the purposeful omission of even considering alternative ZQN land uses in the face of the Tarras International Airport proposal, due to paradigms set by Council’s current political and executive leadership, undermines the document’s vital purpose of planning for the district’s best potential future.

Colin Keel resigns

After five turbulent years, the day after the PM announced the Australian travel bubble, QAC CEO and air noise expansion plan architect Colin Keel resigned in early April.  There weren’t many times we agreed with Colin – so we were thrilled to be able to use the above quote as part of our draft spatial plan submission. Well done, Colin, you nailed it.

Covid 19 and climate change mitigation policy impacts on aviation?

These two issues remain front of mind for many people across the world, with much media coverage and discussion of the inevitable long-term impacts on global aviation and tourism. Even Air New Zealand’s chief environmental advisor came out supporting price hikes to curb “thoughtless, heedless tourism” and said the idea of returning to pre-Covid levels of international tourism is wholly inappropriate.

Both Climate Change Commissioner Rod Carr and Parliament Commissioner of the Environment Simon Upton published independent reports highlighting the negative impacts of pre-Covid levels of tourism and aviation and calling for urgent action on climate change and environmental degradation.

But did our councillors hear?

Apparently not! Despite some fine words from Deputy Mayor Calum MacLeod in a social media post, only Crs Niamh Shaw, Niki Gladding and Quentin Smith stuck to their election hustings promises and voted against allowing Air Noise Boundary (ANB) expansion in their statement of expectation and statement of intent (SOI) votes.

It is this SOI process through which both QAC and QLDC lawyers told the High Court judge last November, when fighting for the legitimacy of their Wanaka Airport lease, that council had “total control” of QAC. You might remember all but Mayor Boult (and Arrowtown’s Cr Heath Copland) promised to oppose ANB expansion when asking us to vote for them. 

In less than two years, in an incredibly inefficient, opaque and undemocratic process, the majority of councillors have voted four times for inadequate SOIs that do not stipulate QAC must operate within its ANBs.

Here’s what they said when they had the very real chance to put their election rhetoric into action late last year and again in late January, and instead chose not to. Good to keep in mind if they seek re-election next year.

Then of course, there’s Tarras International Airport…

As we spluttered into our coffee at the irony of Mr Boult’s environmental ire, ButtScuttle kindly encapsulated the inherent contradictions for us.

This will no doubt be an ongoing issue for our district. The existence and/or growth of the three proposed or actual international airports, within 50 km of each other, is opposed by all three host communities.  Driven by competing local authorities and nominally council-controlled trading organisation (CCTO) airport companies, this complex and uncoordinated infrastructural interplay raises huge issues of democracy, councillor capacity and control, over-tourism, climate change mitigation and the best use of our country’s land resource.

The issues are complex and will no doubt continue to be debated as Christchurch International Airport Ltd (which Mr Boult used to be CEO of) continues with its plans, first announced late last July.  Hyperbole will also no doubt continue – like the claim that 10,000 people would be impacted on by fumes, noise and lights should Tarras International Airport get the go-ahead.  Definitely worth checking the graphic in our post showing the relative impacts of 12 km perimeter circles around Tarras, Wanaka and Queenstown airports. 

In terms of complexity and importance of the decisions to be made, this debate should be held at NZ Inc level – not decided by competing councils based on their sometimes conflicted interests, siloed and narrow thinking, paltry ‘our patch’ perspective and inadequate information.

That pretty much catches us up. Phew

Please make sure you vote in time to make it count so we can start the change we need in how our council operates – transparently, without conflicts of interest, with enquiring minds and community wellbeing and feedback at its core.

Here’s hoping that maybe this year’s QAC statement of intent might finally reflect the big fat loud NO our community has repeatedly said to more noise at Queenstown Airport. Council’s forecast is that growth will return to pre-Covid levels within five years, so all those multiple downstream ramifications of excessive airport noise that we have all campaigned against will still happen, just five years later.  We should see the next SOI before council in late June.

It would be great if you could please forward this to others who might not yet know about We Love Wakatipu Inc and our Protect Queenstown campaign to make sure Council and QAC do listen to our community and stop ANB expansion. As you know, it costs nothing and takes less than a minute to join.  Growing our membership helps give us strength and makes sure more of our community is informed. Our time is consumed with research, lobbying and communication, so your support in letting people know about our work (voluntary) and purpose would be much appreciated:-)! If every WLW Inc member forwarded this to 10 others who all joined up, that would be great. And please follow us on Facebook to keep up more regularly with the relevant issues and events that will help us all Protect Queenstown.  Because it’s precious.

Ngā mihi nui,

Cath Gilmour, We Love Wakatipu Inc chair

Stuff, 26 Dec 2020

A bit delayed putting this up – useful backgrounder for Christchurch International Airport Ltd’s proposal.

Link to article

FlightPlan2050 submission on the draft Spatial Plan, April 2021

A credible alternative to Queenstown Airport is being actively pursued, with decisions likely in the next five to seven years – but the draft Spatial Plan ignores both the opportunities and risks of the proposed Tarras International Airport.

Removal of ZQN would create a blank canvas on which to design one of the world’s most liveable alpine villages, a carless centre with the necessary substance and character to provide a sustainable, low emissions and prosperous economic future for our district, FlightPlan2050 says. Read on …

Kelvin Peninsula Community Association submission on the draft Spatial Plan, April 2021

KPCA points out the draft Spatial Plan has not quelled concern that doubling resident, job and visitor numbers in the next 30 years is ultimately not compatible with Queenstown Lakes remaining both an iconic destination and a good place to live.

“Put colloquially, you cannot pour a quart into a pint pot. All the more so if you’re not willing to consider expanding the size of the pot by the alternative use of Frankton Flats.”

WLW comment, 3 May 2021

We Love Wakatipu Inc chair Cath Gilmour presented the following submission to the draft Spatial Plan hearing panel, comprising central government, Kai Tahu and QLDC representatives under independent chair David Mead, on Monday, 3 May, 2021. You can read We Love Wakatipu’s full submission in our April 20 media update.

Submission

Kia ora, koutou.

Ko Cath Gilmour ahau, chair of We Love Wakatipu. Thank you for undertaking this huge mahi for the long-term well-being of our community and environment.

I’d like to start off with a quote from Colin Keel, ex-CEO of Queenstown Airport Corporation, from the International Airport Review of November 21, 2018, in which he said “One hundred years is a long time… Getting things done right for the long-term is more important than getting things done right now. We don’t want generations to come thinking “if only”…”

This was in the wake of Wakatipu feedback to QAC’s expansion plans but before the whiplash to their Wanaka pivot.

There have been a lot of times that I have not agreed with Colin – but in this case, he totally nailed it.

And tenei wa, tenei wahi – this time and this place – is our chance to do things right, for the long-term.

Unfortunately, by bowing to current political dictate, we seriously risk losing this opportunity.

As we outlined in our submission, the council has both ignored consistent and strong community opposition to airport noise expansion plans and forbidden discussion of alternative uses for ZQN land in all Spatial Plan, MartinJenkins and Frankton Master Plan consultation.

In Justice van Bohemen’s judgement overturning QLDC’s illegal Wanaka Airport lease, he pointed out that public consultation on QAC’s master planning would have limited scope for influencing proposed decisions, would be at QAC’s discretion and outside of the LGA process.

So we are left relying very much on this panel, with the much broader perspectives of Kai Tahu and central government, to ensure our community’s “best possible future” – as is your goal – is not sacrificed to short-term blinkered thinking focused on turbocharging tourism.

Given this kaupapa, would any spatial planner or urban designer suggest putting New Zealand’s most dangerous airport in the middle of the most developable, stable and valuable land in New Zealand’s premium tourism destination?

Or, even accepting its existence, force its continued growth and multiple damaging effects on an unwilling host community, when QAC could smash its passenger target just by insisting Air New Zealand and JetStar fly the far quieter and larger planes they already own?

(Unspoken NB: A321s are 75% quieter and 25% bigger than the old A320s.  And because the impact of noise is logarithmic, these together mean Queenstown Airport could be hosting 15 to 20 million passengers a year, not the 5.2 million QAC claim they are aiming at.)

Neither QAC nor council have acknowledged this publicly.  Nor pointed out that the ANB is the only legal structure we have to control tourism numbers.

While we acknowledge that current political council leadership, headed by the chair of the South Island’s largest tourism company, sees airport growth as vital to our community well-being – the huge majority of our community has clearly and repeatedly said they do not agree. 

Leadership changes.  And there is an election next year.

There are other hopeful signs of the possibility of a paradigm change, including:

  • Resource Management Act and Local Government Act reform.
  • A move to long-term, nationwide infrastructure planning.
  • Strong calls for a tourism reset.
  • Legislative pushes for stronger climate change policy responses – in NZ and globally – that will likely impact on long haul tourism.
  • The proposal for a low emissions international airport, five times the size of ZQN, at Tarras.

(Unspoken NB: This could be built to minimise emissions – by the planes that use it, in the construction of it versus the amount of concrete required to redevelop both Queenstown and Wanaka Airports, and the public transport networks that link to it. Plus the opportunities of opening ZQN land to dense, quality development that would reduce pressure to cover more of Wakatipu basin with low-density housing and its attendant diluted web of infrastructure. The budgets for both the Tarras and dual airport plans have been estimated at around $800 million each. WLW’s purpose is to stop expansion of the ANB but we support the call for community debate of alternative uses for ZQN land. If you want to read more about this, see http://www.FlightPlan2050.co.nz) 

Local body competition and 20th-century tourism thinking should not be allowed to result in three international airports being developed within 75kms of each other, for a total of $1.6 trillion.

For the Spatial Plan to totally ignore both the risks and the opportunities that the very real Tarras proposal presents seriously reduces its credibility and potentially pushes us down a route where suboptimal plans become concrete.

This draft Spatial Plan should have been the opportunity to have a real community discussion about the best use of this land in the heart of Frankton. It has not been.

Instead, the plan has seriously minimised the huge impacts of Queenstown Airport on the use of our most valuable whenua – not just ZQN, but the severe handbrake on development of all land within the expanded air noise boundary.

Together, these have forced the draft Spatial Plan into a corner whereby it accepts as inescapable fact what no spatial planner would ever recommend – without even being allowed to mention the compromises thus made.

Our submission also outlined some of the other consequences of ANB expansion – all of which negatively impact on the four well-beings QLDC is legally required to promote.

We laid out quite clearly the changes we think are needed to secure the best use of the whenua that is our most precious taonga – when political circumstances permit.  Most fundamental of these is ensuring the current air noise boundary cannot be expanded.

We do so because we are all kaitiaki – and this draft Spatial Plan is our best opportunity, through you, to exercise this guardianship in a way that achieves the well-being of both our whenua and our tangata, now and in the future.

Thank you, again.  For listening, for thinking, for caring – for both our land and our people.

I will give Colin Keel – the architect of QAC’s air noise expansion plans – the final word, to reiterate what he said so wisely two and a half long years ago:

“Getting things done right in the long-term is more important than getting things done right now”.

I’d be happy to answer any questions…

We Love Wakatipu Inc submission to the draft Queenstown Lakes Spatial Plan

April 2021

Dear hearing panel,

Thank you for the opportunity to submit on this vital document. This is a submission on behalf of We Love Wakatipu Incorporated Society (WLW), which was set up to fight Queenstown Airport Corporation’s plan to expand ZQN’s air noise boundary (ANB), on behalf of our community. 

We agree with the necessity of having a long-term spatial plan and with many of the contents of this draft. However, we believe it is based on a fundamentally flawed basic assumption and a concept of “Grow Well/Whaiora” that reflects the perspective of tourism business rather than repeated and strong community feedback on the inherent contradiction between continued airport growth and the well-being of our community.

Because this feedback – the community has been saying a very loud and clear “no” to expanding the ANB since first asked by QAC in 2018 – has been ignored to date, many we have spoken to will not submit on the Spatial Plan.  Between cynicism and Covid, they have run out of energy to respond on issues that they feel will be seen only through the current council’s ‘more bums on seats’ tourism business lens.

Queenstown Airport consumes Frankton Flats

As hearing panel member Cr Glyn Lewers will remember, he and I presented a 1500-strong petition plus substantial submissions from Frankton Community Association (he was then chair) and Kelvin Peninsula Community Association (which I was representing) to QAC back in mid-2018, expressing both communities’ united opposition to ANB expansion and all its downstream ramifications. Cr Lewers’ voting pattern and statements indicate his position has changed since leaving the FCA role. At the KPCA meeting that fed into our submission, and every meeting since, this opposition has remained unanimous.  Overall, over 92% of around 1500 submissions opposed QAC’s expansion plans. This strong community opposition was again reflected in the council commissioned MartinJenkins report on socio-economic impacts of different airport scenarios.  This report was commissioned at the behest of Mayor Jim Boult when the issue became the unwanted central election issue, purportedly to guide future council airport growth scenario decisions.

However, MartinJenkins and council staff running the process refused specific requests from local group FlightPlan2050 to offer a scenario for discussion in which Queenstown Airport was removed, opening up the land for other uses long-term.

Furthermore, it was made clear at the start of each workshop that discussion of this alternative was off the table.  MartinJenkins’ scenario of a third international airport did not pair such development with closure of ZQN and the potential upsides of this.  And despite this, it received strong support from the community.

The MartinJenkins report was further flawed by concentrating on the narrow lens of GDP and modelled economic impact. The “socio” part of the socio-economic report was largely ignored. As was the promise that it would include environmental impacts.

However, as councillors have still not specifically workshopped this report and its findings, the flaws have probably had little impact and this discussion is included just to illustrate the paucity of meaningful community consultation on airport growth to date.

The same prohibition on discussing the future of the ZQN-shaped doughnut that is currently Frankton’s land resource was imposed when the Frankton community came together to feed into QLDC’s Frankton master plan.

All of which contrasts significantly with the Spatial Plan’s claim that a key part of engaging with the community was to test future growth scenarios and have robust discussions on possible outcomes. Neither alternative scenarios nor robust discussion was allowed at any of these community engagements.

And so it probably comes as no surprise to anyone that one of the two fundamental assumptions on which the Spatial Plan has been based is continued growth of Queenstown and Wanaka airports in our midst, to meet demand.

When asked in the past, QAC has said this “demand” is based on predictions by experts of likely airline demand.

It is certainly not the “demand” of our communities.  As the clear feedback mentioned above, the Mood of the Nation and QLDC Quality of Life surveys have shown, pre-Covid growth was far above the “well-being” threshold of our communities. It is the four well-beings that QLDC is charged with responsibility for – economic, social, community and environmental – not meeting international airline demand.

The second assumption on which the Spatial Plan is based is that growth will soon return to pre-Covid levels and then continue, so that our population and visitor numbers double by 2050.

WLW accepts that the government requirement for the Spatial Plan is predicated on Queenstown Lakes being a high growth district.  However, the loss of social licence for tourism and serious angst against excessive growth expressed in many forums suggest a council focused on its community’s wellbeing would aim to minimise rather than maximise the developer-driven freight train of growth we have experienced in recent years.

The Spatial Plan states its purpose is to “ensure we are delivering the best possible future for our community and the generations that will follow us.”  Which sounds great. As does its label – Grow Well/Whaiora. 

But the problem is one of who/what is the driver of those definitions of “better future” and “Grow Well/Whaiora”?

Certainly not all the feedback showing both Queenstown and Wanaka communities vehemently oppose QAC/QLDC’s airport expansion plans, nor our clear pre-Covid exhaustion with over-tourism and unmitigated growth. 

Not the imperative of climate change mitigation nor the distinct possibility that a better regulated, safer, more climate-friendly international airport at Tarras would be a commercial reality that even QAC and QLDC couldn’t ignore long-term.

Continuing to grow an excessively noisy international airport in the middle of an increasingly dense urban centre doesn’t enhance any of the four well-beings the council is mandated to provide for, nor meet any reasonable definition of growing well/whaiora.

Especially when QAC, council and our community all know that one day, ZQN will hit its ultimate outer growth limit. It is New Zealand’s most dangerous airport, physically constrained by the river at one end of the runway and the lake at the other, in the midst of a community largely hostile to its presence. 

Hence the dual airport strategy, which QAC started promulgating more seriously in the wake of the 2018 Queenstown response to its ANB expansion plans, with the intention of flicking flights over to the Upper Clutha once ZQN was maxed out.

Although this submission focuses on Queenstown Airport, we must raise the question of whether growing two international airports in the middle of largely hostile host communities is the best use of high value land in two of New Zealand’s most valuable tourist resorts, for the next 30 years or longer term?

Looking at airport infrastructure from regional and national perspectives, is $800 million spent on building/rebuilding two international airports in Queenstown Lakes District sensible expenditure?  Especially when they seriously diminish social licence for tourism in the district that acts as New Zealand’s primary tourism magnet? 

As stated above, We Love Wakatipu Inc’s goal is to stop expansion of ZQN’s air noise boundaries and all its downstream ramifications.  So, our particular concerns in the plan are as follows:

  • That the basic assumption of continued growth of Queenstown Airport should be removed.  The community has been resolutely clear in its rejection of ANB expansion – even the Chamber of Commerce and many of Queenstown’s biggest tourism businesses submitted in opposition, in the pre-Covid reality of Queenstown’s community buckling under over-tourism. (Again, Cr Lewers will be able to give you more detail as he was the front person for this group.) This assumption closes off so many other potential opportunities for land-use.  Not just of the ZQN land itself, as the map in the Spatial Plan wrongly suggests, but also all the adjacent land under the expanded ANB.  To have as a basic assumption a principle that contradicts community so strongly, and so limits the potential uses of so much of our best land resource, makes a mockery of the fundamental purpose of the Spatial Plan.
  • That the Spatial Plan recognises the strong community feedback on QAC’s ANB expansion plan and specifically excludes capacity to do this. ZQN already severely restricts activities on adjacent land and within the ANB. Unfortunately, most owners of these properties have non-complaint covenants that mean you won’t hear from them. Some of the many reasons our community is so strongly against expansion of the ANBs are excessive noise, traffic congestion, impacts on our use of outdoor space, air pollution, loss of social licence for tourism, health effects and loss of community through over-tourism (please see our WLW website and Protect Queenstown Facebook for more details).  Expansion of the ANB as planned by QAC would mean 4000 more properties would be restricted in their use, with no ASANs (activities sensitive to air noise) allowed and design constrained by the need to meet 40Db limits in all bedrooms and living areas. This is a severe restriction on private property rights, which would not be compensated for in any way. People do not live in or visit Queenstown to sit inside an air-conditioned box.
  • That the inclusion of the Frankton masterplan, which was based on inadequate reflection of community feedback, be caveated. The ‘wordles’ created from public feedback to Shaping Our Future’s Frankton Future Forum (please see page 8) clearly show major contradictions between locals’ aspirations and the presence of a growing international airport in their midst.
Frankton community values
Frankton community vision
Obstacles/challenges to achieving Frankton’s vision
  • That greater consideration be given to climate change mitigation and the likely impacts of this on global long-haul tourism and thus, ZQN use.
  • That (page 34/35) greater realism be given to the impacts of current ANB impacts. Currently described as “restricts some development outcomes in parts of Frankton,” and showing only the airport land itself, these impacts spread over a far larger area. For instance, council suggestions that Frankton Motor Camp (owned by Council) could be used for affordable housing/worker accommodation were nixed by QAC counsel during proposed district plan hearings, as they were considered an ASAN, and therefore forbidden. The ANB is the greatest constraint on broader Frankton and West-East Corridor spatial use – in terms of height, activities and so on. Witness also the constraints on Queenstown Events Centre land-use.  Plus the impact on people wanting to build their homes and having to meet QAC- imposed internal noise limits.
  • That if ANB expansion is not ruled out in this Spatial Plan, that the depth and breadth of these impacts are clarified in the narrative and the map, to better inform the 2024 review. Currently the plan is silent on this, part of a pattern of the Spatial Plan narrative minimising problems and land use limitations created by the airport.
  • Under transport options, mention is made of Queenstown’s role as a domestic and international tourism gateway compounding issues of congestion, emissions and safety. There is an apparent assumption that this gateway/regional hub role should continue. Why should it? It could easily be changed by QLDC giving QAC such instruction through its letter of expectations for the Statement of Corporate Intent.
  • The map on page 52 has somehow forgotten the huge hole in the middle of the major metropolitan of Frankton created by the airport.  This bifurcates Frankton residential and commercial areas, restricts potential for connections and severely curtails much land use. How can and why would the draft Spatial Plan ignore such a huge impingement on our most usable space?
  • The page 88 section on air services is a commercially and politically driven narrative that lacks the objectivity expected of an independent and professional Spatial Plan. Many locals would disagree with the claim that air services connectivity across Queenstown Lakes is “vital to the economic and social well-being of the Queenstown Lakes”. Sure, our community needs connectivity. It need not be to the level wanted by QAC. It need not be provided at ZQN. Also commercially/politically driven is the statement that “it is important that the level of service continues to support growth in demand for commercial air services”. This would appear to be a fundamental Spatial Plan paradigm. But such political pressure cheapens the document and should be removed, in favour of strategic independence that will survive both the current council term and community critique.
  • This section also describes QAC’s dual airport vision as “at conceptual level”. A pretty well-developed concept, considering we have been told that redevelopment of both airports would cost around $400million each and have submitted on QAC’s alternative ZQN terminal options. It is interesting that the narrative says that further community consultation is required. Better, surely, that QAC and council stop ignoring the consultation already done and agree to operate within the existing ANB.  With already existing noise technology improvements and capacity increases, the current ANB allows several times the number of passengers QAC claims it is targeting through ANB expansion. We have received confirmation through a LGOIMA response from QAC that their ANB and demand modelling to date does not take any account of this. ANB expansion would in fact allow many, many more tourists than the 5.2 million passengers QAC claim to be targeting, with no ability for QLDC/community to control this further growth. Further good reason to ban ANB expansion in the Spatial Plan.

Perhaps the saddest part of this Spatial Plan, however, is the fact that the broader Spatial Plan team has not used this opportunity to trigger/force a broader debate about the best use of the hole in the middle of Frankton doughnut, faced with the current council’s reluctance to do so.

WLW is not pushing for relocation of ZQN – but surely this is a debate worth having now, when the draft Spatial Plan is focused on best use of our constrained and valuable land resource and $800 million has not yet been spent on QAC’s unpopular redevelopment plans. 

This is the time and place for open-minded, blue sky thinking – especially in the face of the competing Tarras International Airport proposal and demands from so many in the community for a reset in the wake of Covid. 

Proposing two international airports within 70km of each other is bad enough – to potentially have three, because of intractable council competition and the current lack of nationwide airport infrastructure coordination capacity, would be an unforgivable waste on many fronts.

QLDC’s and QAC’s response to this Tarras proposal (beyond the Spatial Plan’s one-liner) has been to take the strategic direction of the airport totally behind closed doors, to be developed by QAC with no councillor sign off and zero community input, to ensure that CIAL has no visibility of QAC’s defence and attack strategy.

This makes the Spatial Plan even more critical for our community, as the council has abandoned the “total control” it claimed it had over QAC through its Statement of Corporate Intent during November’s High Court case, any chance of community input and any transparency.

In conclusion, the Spatial Plan is our community’s best opportunity to work out whether a noisy (and getting noisier) international airport is the optimal use of Wakatipu’s biggest chunk of developable, flat, sunny, geotechnically stable land, already blessed with the necessary community, recreational and infrastructural requirements.

Or is there a better alternative for community, economic, environmental and social well-being and climate change mitigation than the continued, dispersed and diluted web of homes, roads and pipes across the Wakatipu?

Remember, these are the four well-beings (‘wellness’ in Spatial Plan-speak) our councillors are obliged under the Local Government Act to base their strategic decisions on. Have councillors remembered the Climate Emergency Declaration they voted for not so long ago?

In 108 pages, the Spatial Plan text is almost silent on ZQN, despite the central and critical assumption of its continued growth in Frankton’s heart. Perhaps because this assumption leaves no room for improved use of this space. Or, being eternal optimists, perhaps there is a realisation, somewhere in the spatial planning universe, that having New Zealand’s most dangerous airport consume this land is a nonsense we have more hope of addressing at the 2024 review, under a new council? And that Kai Tahu and central government members of this Spatial Plan working group would be supportive of this.

Our community should be allowed to have this debate before QAC spends some $800 million on dual airport development and ratepayers have to suck up all the other externalities and costs (think roading, loss of developable land, excessive noise, congestion, over-tourism, compromised property rights of 4000 more property owners…). 

We understand that, under the current timeline, there would not be time for such a debate prior to Council wanting to sign off the draft plan.  Which leaves two alternatives – adjust the timeline or signal in the Spatial Plan that such debate must take place, with meaningful opportunity for community input and influence, prior to the 2024 review  And ban any action being taken in this direction in the interim.

Again, many thanks for your efforts to make this Spatial Plan a better, more visionary, objective document that reflects consistent and strong community feedback about our fundamental opposition to an ever-growing airport in our midst.

And many thanks to those staff who tried their hardest to have vision and incorporate community feedback, where they could.

Kind regards,

We Love Wakatipu Inc Society (chair Cath Gilmour)

We Love Wakatipu Inc commentary, 4 December 2020

Great to hear from Cr Niamh Shaw, in response to our recent Facebook post, that full council will workshop their 2021 statement of expectations for QAC before Christmas.

It is this SOE that is meant to give strategic direction to the airport corp’s statement of intent (SOI).  And in turn, the SOI is supposed to give QLDC “total control” of QAC operations (quoting the QAC and QLDC lawyers at High Court late September, contrary to advice they have given councillors in every prior agenda…but we’re thrilled they are finally agreeing to our advice of the last two years).

At council’s October 29 meeting, Cr Shaw pushed against the joint QAC/QLDC steering group retaining control over the SOE.  She and other councillors spoke of the lack of communications between this group (four QAC board and executive team members plus Jim Boult, Penny Clark, Quentin Smith and Glyn Lewers) and the rest of the “team”.

She shouldn’t have had to. Setting strategic direction is councillors’ job.  Having QAC at the table while discussing how QLDC should control QAC operations to ensure they meet council’s objectives for community well-being is a bit like having the fox in co-charge of the henhouse.

We have elsewhere suggested a “strategic direction starter pack”.  We look forward to seeing at least some of adopted. It is nearly Christmas after all :-).

We would be more confident of that if council’s website showed the 2020 SOE accurately. Instead, it misses out the vital amendment successfully pushed through by Cr John MacDonald – that QAC must operate within the air noise boundaries

So maybe that is why the fourth SOI in two years, agreed to by the majority of councillors in October, still allows QAC to push the boundary, just not ‘til July 1, 2023.  That’s not a big concession from QAC – it’s not exactly going to be needed before then. 

But it’s easier, perhaps, to keep pushing the process while people are focused elsewhere, panicked about the economy and there aren’t so many planes creating the excessive noise and other downstream impacts we were all railing against.

We asked council’s PR man and Cr MacDonald to explain how come the adopted SOE was not on the website, as legally required. We haven’t heard back from the PR man as yet, but Cr MacDonald’s response was that there is “No point directing the past, working on the future now”.

Which is fine – and good news that they are. Hopefully with community well-being and feedback front of mind. 

But it’s concerning that the background admin and processes on which good governance depends are so sloppy that no one bothered to update such a vital and strategic change to the SOE. 

And it seems, no one else noticed, despite the fact that the two SOIs based on it were so blatantly in contravention of this clear direction given by councillors, against the strong pushback of the mayor, who (with absolutely zero legal foundation) warned that Auckland Airport could take them to court for doing so. Within a day, they had denied that they would even think of doing so.

Otago Daily Times, 30 November 2020

Lawyers have now been called in for the next round of what from the outside looks like a personal campaign by mayor Jim Boult against Christchurch International Airport’s Tarras proposal.

We don’t know if councillors had the chance to okay his initial letter to Christchurch Council, describing CIAL’s actions as predatory and of questionable morality. They should have.  He is representing councillors and residents when he writes such an aggressively toned letter to another council. 

Interestingly, the final paragraph of this story in the print version has been extracted from the online version. We provide it here as it raises a serious question of transparency and whether this is a personal mayoral campaign or representative of full council: “He was also unable to comment as to whether the subsequent advice would be presented to full council.”  

Really? That there might be a question over this is bad enough.  Even worse is what looks awfully like political control of our local media.

LINK to article