How come QAC is making these decisions for us?
Good question! Basically, because at the moment, Council is letting them.
As explained in “Can Council Control QAC?” Queenstown Airport Corporation can only do what is included in its statement of intent and our council has almost complete control over this. But the previous council abrogated its legal responsibility to direct QAC or set strategic objectives for it, despite legal advice we provided in June 2018 pointing this out.
Councillors had no input into CEO Mike Theelen’s March 2018 letter of expectations to QAC, Mayor Boult’s August 8 “fresh approach” script, Mr Theelen’s subsequent instructions to the QAC board or the the joint agreement with QAC that led to their December 12, 2019, SOI agreement. They left the keys with QAC, the Mayor and council staff on the executive leadership team. Councillors should have been in the driver seat.
Just prior to the October election, QLDC released legal advice that said SOI direction should be left to the new council. On December 12 at an extraordinary council meeting, their “pragmatic” solution was to agree to the current SOI, subject to a joint agreement stopping QAC from acting on its growth plans until agreed to.
They also set up a joint QAC – QLDC steering group to work towards the 2020 SOI. We agree this is a pragmatic response, but it should be based on proper process. It isn’t. Councillors have still not set their strategic objectives for QAC. They have had no input into setting the terms of reference (that will determine the information gained and from whom) for the airport impact assessments their decisions are going to be “guided” by. They continue to be told to ignore the strong community opposition, with a senior staffer telling them this only equates to 3% of the population. Council’s senior political and executive team continues to support QAC’s claim it must be commercially driven and meet airline demand. This is not true (see our “Can Council Control QAC?” page)
By law, QAC’s primary job is to meet the strategic objectives of its controlling shareholder, QLDC, both financial and non-financial.
And May 2019 amendments to the Local Government Act make clear these strategic objectives should concentrate on community well-being – environmental, economic, social and cultural, with none of the four having precedence. No longer is its core job providing infrastructure, regulation and services.
Our Councillors could take the initiative and take control. Through a notice of motion, they could identify exactly what strategic objectives they want QAC to achieve, even if that’s not the direction their political and executive team leaders are heading. This would then be put to the vote. QAC’s job would then be to manage the airport within the agreed strategic parameters set by councillors.
The Mayor and executive team need not be the only leaders around the council table.