QLDC councillor concerns over new airport community survey

by Kim Bowden - Apr 20, 2023

Queenstown Airport managers are asking Queenstowners what they think of them and their airport.

Elected members of the Queenstown Lakes District Council have told the airport corporation they expect it to work “to develop and maintain a strong social licence” with the community, and a new community sentiment survey is the airport’s first step in figuring out a way to measure how well it is doing on that front.

Consultants TRA, an independent research agency, is running the survey on the airport’s behalf.

The survey asks questions to gauge what locals think of the airport itself and the organisation running it, covering of topics including whether it is transparent and open, is focused on what’s best for the region, and communicates with clarity.

A selection of the distribution chain for the survey. 

The survey launched on Monday, and Crux spotted a mention of it on a closed community association Facebook page. 

An airport spokesperson says the survey “has been distributed directly by TRA and via local databases”.

Crux understands the Queenstown and Wānaka chambers of commerce, Destination Queenstown and Lake Wānaka Tourism have all been asked to distribute the survey to their members and contacts. The QLDC has also included a link to the survey in its emailed version of its Scuttlebutt newsletter to some ratepayers. 

TRA has been directed by the airport corporation to target approximately 400 respondents.

There has been no media release about the survey.

But one councillor has some concerns about the roll out of the survey to date, as well as plans for access to the responses it garners.

Councillor Gladding - concerned that the airport survey results will be partially hidden from public and media scrutiny.

Councillor Niki Gladding wants the survey to be distributed widely and not just via "limited" channels.

"We need to ensure that everybody we need to hear from on this is heard from."

She also has some concerns about what level of information from the survey responses will be made available to councillors and the wider public.

The airport spokesperson says it is the first year this specific survey has been conducted.

“The purpose is to establish a community sentiment score. This is directly linked to the 10-Year Strategic Plan as one of the performance measures.”

The 2023 scores will become a “benchmark”, the spokesperson says.

In its Statement of Expectations this year the QLDC asked to see more detailed, measurable KPIs with explicit deliverables and timeframes in the airport’s annual Statement of Intent.

The survey responses in general will not be made public or reported on, just the scores, the spokesperson says. 

Councillor Gladding says it is her preference general responses from the survey be made available, rather than just the collated benchmark score, and that is what she had asked for during council discussions.

"But now I see, just like with the MartinJenkins survey, it is confidential, and we may have the same problem with the contractor saying 'oh, no, no, we said it was confidential and we can't release it. That's what I'm concerned about. To me, that's a problem."

The controversial MartinJenkins survey in 2020, a QLDC-initiated project, sought community views on future options for the district's airports.

"We have to have trust the results, the councillors do and so do the community," Councillor Gladding says.

"If we don't trust the results, we're going to have a whole lot of argy-bargy all over again."

Councillor Gladding says she would like to see the airport corporation go back to the consultant to clarify that councillors would be able to see the results.

The airport spokesperson says the survey is aimed at residents and ratepayers of the Queenstown Lakes District.

After answering Crux’ questions today, they invited us to share this link to the survey https://surveys.tra.co.nz/survey/selfserve/2c7b/230403?list=1 with readers.

The survey closes on Sunday, April 30.

The airport spokesperson says another extensive community engagement exercise will come straight off the back of this community sentiment survey. It is part of the process to develop a 30-year master plan for the airport that will provide a spatial representation of what the airport will look like into the future.

While the community sentiment survey will be an annual exercise, the master plan consultation in the coming months relates to bigger picture, strategic stuff.

It will be undertaken in partnership with the QLDC.

"There's opportunity for feedback and input on that," the spokesperson says.

"We're being quite cautious not to blur the lines and confuse the community about the different pieces of work that we're going out with."

*This story was updated on April 21 with clarification the MartinJenkins community consultation was a QLDC-initiated project. Information on the upcoming airport master plan community consultation was also added.

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