QLDC about to spend "tens of millions" on Wanaka jet infrastructure

Sep 09, 2020

From the Wanaka Stakeholders Group:

"Most Wānaka residents are probably completely unaware that Council is about to spend an extra $2.7m of ratepayers money to keep Project Pure clear of the proposed jet runway at Wānaka Airport.  According to a local group representing thousands of Wānaka residents, the significant sum has been discussed behind closed doors by Councillors and is buried in the financials for the 2020/21 Annual Plan, but details came to light by chance last week.


The group is concerned that there has been “no consultation or transparency from Council” despite numerous requests, with the likelihood of “tens of millions” in further costs in the near future.


Wanaka Stakeholders Group' Mark Sinclair

Mark Sinclair, deputy chair of Wānaka Stakeholders Group, says “Council has refused to provide clear and honest answers to our specific questions about this for five months. We only know the real number because it was revealed in an independent inquiry report made available last week.  The report reveals a “projected” $2.7m cost for locating the new additions to Project Pure away from the proposed runway.”


“To be clear, the $2.7m is over and above the actual costs of the much needed additional wastewater processing capacity at Project Pure. This number is the additional cost of building the improvements away from the code-c jet runway proposed by QAC. QLDC has tried to hide this figure from the community.”


Mr Sinclair says that the group’s nearly 3,500 members want answers. He confirmed that there have been “multiple requests” for information about the projected spend and its link to QAC’s plans for a jet airport in Wānaka.  “I even asked all councillors for the detail on this back in May during the Annual Planning process. I have yet to receive a real answer, and WSG has since requested clarity.”


Despite the $2.7m figure being presented to Councillors as part of the business case put to them in January QLDC’s Mayor Jim Boult wrote to concerned ratepayers in August saying that the number couldn’t be shared. In his letter he said: "It’s not possible at this stage to state how much of the increase sought through the 2020-2021 Annual Plan is due to constructing on the north-east side of the existing plant as detailed design would need to be completed on both options to do provide an accurate comparison."


Mr Sinclair has labelled Mayor Boult’s response as “disingenuous” and “cleverly designed to obscure the detail” from ratepayers.


“When he wrote to us last month, the Mayor and all councillors had known the projected figure for seven months.  They had discussed it.  They had included it in the Annual Plan budget and approved it. The Mayor’s refusal to share this projected spend openly is completely unacceptable, and his tactic of claiming that they don’t have final quotes shows his complete disregard for ratepayers’ legitimate concerns.”


Mr Sinclair says that WSG members are concerned about Council’s approach. “Council is avoiding fronting up to the community about this - because it knows what the response will be, especially as things get tougher because of Covid-19.”  And he says that the $2.7m is just the “tip of the iceberg”. 


“The airport lease which was shared with the community only under political pressure during the election last year reveals in black and white that QLDC can be asked by QAC to move Project Pure entirely, to make way for their proposed 1900 meter jet runway. When this happens, the costs of moving existing Project Pure facilities will ultimately fall on ratepayers.”


He says that the cost to shift Project Pure to avoid the planned runway is likely to be “tens of millions”.  There was “deep concern” that QLDC has already made the very significant decision to hand control to QAC without involving the community.  WSG had seen a “deep set pattern” of Council avoiding giving answers and obscuring the real detail about Wānaka Airport, its significant impacts on Project Pure, and the true costs to the community. 


“You’ll be told there are no plans; you’ll be told that quotes have not been sent in; they’ll say that no decisions have been made; they’ll even say that nothing will happen “for a long time”. The fact of the matter is that QLDC have an estimated figure for this first step which is now locked into their budget. They intend to spend our money this way, and they have chosen to try and hide this from us.”


“This is the thin edge of a very thick wedge to come - and it is deeply concerning.” he said.

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