Last Tuesday Queenstown Lakes District Council (QLDC) released a 236-page report from Wellington consultants MartinJenkins, purporting to "objectively capture the likely effects of future airport development" in the district. Wānaka Stakeholders Group (WSG) said, on first complete reading, it was disappointed with this report.
“The $214,000 spent on QLDC's report has been an inappropriate waste of taxpayers' money and is nothing more than very expensive window dressing which provides cover for the inappropriate decisions that Queenstown Airport Corporation (QAC) and QLDC intend to persist with once tourism volumes start to return. The money spent on a report aimed at fixing up a flawed process should have been better directed to more pressing community needs - and there are many of them,” chair of Wānaka Stakeholders Group Michael Ross said in a statement released to the media.
“WSG will press ahead with judicial review proceedings so that the High Court can determine the issues and the lawfulness of the so-called lease which gives substantial ownership and control of Wānaka Airport and Project Pure to QAC, he said.
Back in early February, WSG raised nine key concerns about QLDC proceeding with the report. “Every one of our concerns has proved to be correct, and has been ignored by QLDC and their consultants,” said Ross. “They also ignored an additional set of concerns raised two weeks later.”
· That the scenario of introducing just ATRs/turbo-props into Wānaka Airport was not even offered. And yet this was one scenario which got significant support in our forum. The forums were – we were advised – to inform and refine the online questionnaire. We know, you know, and the council knows that this is one option that many people in the Upper Clutha have voiced support for very clearly indeed.
· The scenarios do not include deep enough information about each situation, so that people can genuinely provide an indication of their views. Good consultation practice consists of a requirement to give the participant relevant information.
“The report tells us nothing we don't already know,” said Ross.
“Both the Wānaka and Queenstown communities are opposed to further development or expansion of the sort that is planned by QAC. People in the region are anxious about the environmental and social impacts of significantly increased airport activities. The seven key reasons there should be no commercial jet aircraft operations at Wānaka Airport are environmental impact, over-tourism, poor local democracy, infrastructure, we don’t need it, it has to be big and not future-fit.”
Predictably, with the MartinJenkins report in hand, both QLDC and QAC are going to argue that the "economic impacts" of building bigger jet airport capacity in the region far outweighs negative social impacts, which are primarily watered down in the report said Ross.
“Environmental impacts are painted as "minor", which in 2020 is just unbelievable,” he said.
“The report and the process also ignore the very scenario which the community has been asking for for quite some time (maintain services to Queenstown Airport, and continue with Wānaka Airport as a complimentary hub for general aviation with some scheduled turbo-prop services) even though these were formally raised during "community consultation" and ironically, even though this is the very scenario that the earlier Astral Report, commissioned by QLDC, recommended to them.”
“Contrary to statements in the media made by Mayor Jim Boult to give the impression that the development of Wānaka Airport is "off the table", recent communications and decisions from council signal that QAC's plans for a jet airport in Wānaka are still in place and will be agreed to by QLDC, he said.
“We also believe that QAC's planned jet runway at Wānaka Airport will cost ratepayers millions of dollars - likely $20 million or more - to move Project Pure out of the way, with no additional benefit to ratepayers, but largely at our cost. QLDC's decisions to agree to terms in the so-called lease which enable this to occur have not been discussed with the community, and in our court proceedings, we contend that are unlawful. We believe that QLDC is already committing budget to this, including in this year's Annual Plan. This is also an unjustifiable waste of substantial amounts of ratepayers' money, particularly in the current environment,” said Ross.
Read Edition 980 of the Wānaka Sun here.