The MartinJenkins airport impact assessment survey to gather public feedback on the social and economic impact of a controversial airport expansion in Queenstown and Wānaka closed on March 11, but the findings report - first set for April, then delayed to the second half of May due to the impact of Covid-19 - is now not due to be published until mid-June.
“Along with many other organisations, MartinJenkins has had its own challenges working through the coronavirus effect, both on the report and its own operations,” Queenstown Lakes District Council (QLDC) spokesperson Jack Barlow said on May 21. “Most organisations have faced delays due to the lockdown and MartinJenkins is no exception.”
“Airports have nearly ground to a halt, with current predictions it will be some years before pre-coronavirus flight numbers are seen. With this in mind, plus the adoption of the SOI (with the modified one not due until October), time pressure is not as critical as it may be under normal circumstances.”
QLDC councillors voted to accept a draft Queenstown Airport Corporation (QAC) statement of intent (SOI) during a QLDC Zoom meeting on April 23, despite opposition from councillors Niamh Shaw and Nikki Gladding that the document was no longer fit-for-purpose given the current pandemic.
QLDC’s reasoning for the continued delay goes on: “People have been focusing on responding to issues around coronavirus, including job losses and accessing or providing access to basic welfare needs such as food, accommodation or heating. Given the upheaval the country has been facing – the effects of which are far from fully understood – we believe most people will understand the small delay in the report’s publication.”
But anti-airport group Protect Wānaka have criticised the delay of the reports, which were “promised by Jim Boult during the election last year, costing ratepayers $300,000 or more.”
“There is no reason that these external consultants should be delaying work, when all the key data was gathered prior to lockdown,” read the group’s online statement. “MartinJenkins are citing operational problems, yet on their website they are offering ‘rapid turnaround’ coronavirus response work, and on their homepage they claim that ‘Everyone at MartinJenkins is set up to work from home without any restriction to our services. We are available to you via email, phone and video conferencing.’”
“Have they dropped the reports for more lucrative work, or is there something fishy going on?” Protect Wānaka asked.
Read edition 977 of the Wānaka Sun here.