In another blow for the Wanaka Stakeholders Group (WSG) which is opposing the expansion of Wanaka Airport, Queenstown Airport Corporation (QAC) applied to the Minister of Environment, David Parker, for Requiring Authority status on April 1.
QAC General Manager Property and Planning, Rachel Tregidga, said, “As holders of the 100-year lease for Wanaka Airport, QAC has applied to become the Requiring Authority for Wanaka Airport, and it is with the Minister for the Environment to consider. If the application is approved by the Minister, the Requiring Authority status enables QAC, as the company responsible for the long-term planning and development for Wanaka Airport, to operate the airport more efficiently by utilising the existing Wanaka Airport Designations.
“This would also allow QAC to apply for changes to those designations should that be considered necessary to better enable operations and future development. Any more than minor changes to the existing designations would need to go through a public submission process. If granted Requiring Authority status for Wanaka Airport, QAC would also be responsible for any costs and associated liabilities arising from the designations for Wanaka Airport, instead of Queenstown Lakes District Council (QLDC).”
Michael Ross, Convenor of the WSG says, “We are not surprised by QAC’s application for Requiring Authority Status. It was clearly signalled in the Statement of Intent as a key goal for the company.”
QLDC currently holds the Requiring Authority status for Wanaka Airport but is happy to pass it on to QAC according to QLDC Governance, Engagement and Communications Manager, Naell Crosby-Roe.
“QLDC is supportive of the QAC application for requiring authority status for Wanaka Airport given that they have governance and operational responsibility under the existing lease. This is allowed for under the Resource Management Act and it is common for major utilities throughout Aotearoa New Zealand to be the requiring authority as it enables them to be more operationally efficient. This is something QAC already holds for Queenstown Airport,” he said.
The Ministry for the Environment has stated “The Minister is not required to undertake public consultation in making his decision on requiring authority application. Once the Minister has made a decision to approve a requiring authority, [the requiring authority] will have the following powers under the RMA: they can apply to the local authority to designate land; they can apply to the Minister of Land Information to use the compulsory acquisition powers in the Public Works Act 1981; they can undertake works in an emergency and get resource consents after the work has been done; they can go on to private land (after giving notice) to undertake investigations under the Public Works Act 1981.
When asked if businesses such as the National Transport & Toy Museum may face losing their land to QAC, the Ministry of the Environment responded, “In deciding to grant requiring authority status, the Minister does not have a role in assessing the merits of the development including the environment effects and possible alternatives. The Minister’s decision is in regard to whether the network utility operator (in this instance, QAC) meets the statutory tests to become a requiring authority.”
The decision is expected to be made within 65 working days.