Councillors acknowledge positive progress by QAC

by Lauren Pattemore - Mar 23, 2023

At today’s full council meeting Queenstown Lakes District councillors have noted the Queenstown Airport Corporation’s latest Statement of Intent but stopped short of signing it off on the spot.

The Statement of Intent is to cover the period from July 1, 2023 to June 30, 2025, and it has left councillors who have had a few rounds at the decision-making table feeling encouraged about progress made. 

At today's meeting councillor Craig Ferguson voiced his belief that the organisation is changing.

“For me, in the time that I’ve sat around this table, the QAC is a much different entity that what it was when I first arrived."

He believes they've listened to the rhetoric of the community. 

"In my opinion, they are reacting, and I have the utmost faith in the CE and the board this time around to do their job and deliver for the community, so I support this SOI."

Councillor Esther Whitehead also agreed, saying she was looking forward to communicating with the airport corporation more frequently. 

"I agree that the process has gained much more clarity from more scrutiny on our side."

Councillor Lyal Cocks wanted to approve the statement of intention today. However only one other councillor - Barry Bruce - agreed.

Deputy mayor Quentin Smith says he doesn't support approving it on the spot, preferring to have the opportunity to provide feedback to the board - as per standard procedure - and discuss the statement of intentions with them. 

Regardless, “There’s a lot that’s pleasing about the direction of this document”, he says.

He does however note the document is “reasonably silent” on the assets owned at Wānaka Aiport and the assets surrounding it.

“I’d like to see more information regarding that.”

So, what's of note in the Statement of Intent?

In the document the Queenstown Airport Corporation says it "fully supports" the QLDC's "ambitious" carbon zero tourism destination target, and promises to "voluntarily include climate-related disclosures" in its annual reports over the period of the Statement of Intent.

It's own goals: to be carbon neutral and have completed a Climate Risk Assessment by the end of the year, and to be at net-zero emissions by 2040, it says.

It's also promising the airport will be free of single use cups by the end of the year. Plus, there's other sustainability measures like upping EV charging capacity, and improving its recycling and composting program.

It's signalling further transparency, and a "no surprises" relationship with the council, with quarterly meetings planned between the airport's chief executive officer and mayor Glyn Lewers, and twice-yearly meetings with the board, councillors and Wānaka’s community board.

It assures that annual financial results and interim financial results will be presented to the QLDC, along with information on annual passenger and aircraft movements.

Included are forecasted projections for the coming years, focusing on a growth model. 

The airport is expecting to hit 2.8 million passenger movements in 2026. It’s higher than pre-covid-19 levels - in 2019 there were 2.2 million passenger movements recorded for people flying in and out of the district.

The increased passengers come with similar projected increases in revenue, going from $58 million total revenue in 2023 to $72 million in 2026.  

However, something queried by Councillor Nikki Gladding in a previous meeting discussion is whether the community has been asked if they want this many passengers.

She questioned whether the community had consented to a high-growth model like this one, and she asked for more community consultation. 

This was noted in this year's report, which acknowledges there was no public consultation, but notes it's of "wide public interest". The 10-year master plan for the airport will be going out for community consultation towards the final quarter of this year.

The QAC must deliver a completed Statement of Intent to its shareholders before the commencement of the financial year to which it relates, July 1, 2023.

The council can choose to give feedback on a draft of the Statement of Intent, which is prepared in response to a Statement of Expectations from the council.

The council had the option to agree to the Statement of Intent at today’s meeting or at its June meeting. 



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