Airport budgets $18m for further land development as CEO Keel exits

by Peter Newport - Jun 25, 2021

The Queenstown Airport Corporation is still looking for a new CEO to replace Colin Keel who leaves next Wednesday (June 30th) but their new Statement of Intent declares a budget of $18.22 million to develop “bare land” that it owns.

Departing CEO Colin Keel - failed to deliver community engagement for QAC

That amount covers unspecified “planning and potential development of existing land” according to a QAC spokesperson even though the same SOI promises not to expand the airport noise boundaries or buy any more land (over $10 million) without further consultation.

QAC purchased land known as Lot 6 in mid 2020 for $18.4 million even though the Covid pandemic had already had a devastating effect on air traffic numbers.

The latest SOI details almost $50 million for existing terminal improvements over the next three years, including seismic strengthening and new security equipment.

The Statement of Intent will be presented to this month’s full QLDC meeting on June 30th. It includes a forecast that passenger traffic, and revenue, will eventually recover post Covid.

QAC's post Covid numbers suggest a return to ratepayer dividends

Departing CEO Colin Keel earned over $570,000 in the latest QAC financial year in spite of failing to win Wanaka community support for QAC's "two airports" expansion plans. The High Court ruled earlier this year that the QAC lease over Wanaka Airport was unlawful due to community consultation being "evasive and misleading."

Lot 6 was purchased by QAC after a court battle that lasted for over 10 years.

QLDC is still trying to figure out the cost to the ratepayer of unwinding the 100 year Wanaka Airport lease, but the council has awarded QAC a contract to manage the airport in the absence of a lease.

Mr Keel enjoyed a close working relationship with Mayor Jim Boult. A QLDC funded survey of the community in 2020 showed overwhelming sentiment against airport expansion, a result that reflected numerous earlier surveys.

All of the QAC's recent Statements of Intent have stressed their commitment to broad community engagement.  You can read this year's proposed SOI here.





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