Airport donates money to school - via tourism boss

by Peter Newport - Nov 28, 2019

The Queenstown Airport Corporation has given an undisclosed sum to the Wakatipu High School Foundation in a move that threatens to compromise the school's independence.

WHS students have made their views clear on climate change through a number of public protests.

The money, believed to be at least $30,000, was handed over by the airport corporation's Chief Executive Colin Keel to the WHS Foundation's chair Richard Lauder (see main image). Mr Lauder is also CEO of the Wayfare Group, one of the district's biggest tourism organisations (formerly Real Journeys). Wayfare hosts around 1.6 million tourists a year via their various businesses that include Cardrona ski field, Canyon Brewery, the Earnslaw and Go Orange. Mayor Jim Boult is Chair of Wayfare. Mr Lauder is Chair of the the country's main tourism industry lobby group, Tourism Industry Aotearoa.

Wakatipu High School students have made prominent public climate change protests this year - with placards challenging tourism growth and airport expansion.

A statement from the Queenstown Airport Corporation failed to mention how much money has been donated to the Wakatipu High School Foundation, but the statement does refer to "Platinum Sponsorship over three years."

The WHS Foundation website lists Platinum Sponsorship as "Annual donations of $10,000 plus."

In an email to Crux, Mr Lauder provided the following response.

Wayfare's CEO Richard Lauder "No connection bertween school role and tourism role."

"I am chairman of the Wakatipu High School Foundation - a charitable trust that raises funds to support our only secondary school in the Wakatipu Basin. My role on the trust is separate from and not connected in any way to any other roles I hold.

The WHFS provides much needed support to Wakatipu High School - a decile 10 school but one with many families financially stretched because of the cost of living in Queenstown 

Here is a summary of the impact the foundation had on the school last year

One of our important funding programs is our business partnership. Current business partners are listed below. As Chairman of WHSF I am very thankful that QAC has joined our family of business partners who are vital in assuring our ongoing support to the school "






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