QLDC Councillor on airport - "How do we fix the damage done to the community?"

Oct 27, 2020

Councillor Niamh Shaw has published the following social media post in which she highlights the fact that in spite of the Queenstown Airport Corporation being a Council Controlled Trading Organisation (CCTO) there has been no public discussion by elected councillors on key airport issues since last year's local body elections.

In particular, the Martin Jenkins report that played a key role in the local body election outcome has not been discussed openly by the QLDC.

Here is Councillor Shaw's full post:

Note: The following has not been discussed within or endorsed by Council, and is entirely my own opinion.

"For some time I have wanted to address the issue of airport infrastructure in this district. There are a number of reasons I’ve not done so until now.

QLDC Councillor Niamh Shaw.

After being elected, I waited for the great mysteries of Council to unfold. It took a while to realise that the process and governance around our Council Controlled Trading Organisation (CCTO) made less sense as time went by. I also wanted to give us, Council, every opportunity to internally address what some fellow councillors described as a ‘crisis’ (before Covid-19 redefined the word for everyone).

However, I have observed how the issue of our airport infrastructure has caused increasing distress and contention within this community, and how our handling and communication of the situation has been a major factor in the deteriorating relationship between QLDC and its residents. Over a year into the triennium – after two Statements of Intent (SOI)s that I considered robustly flawed in terms of documentation and/ or process; a judicial review hearing against the QLDC and our CCTO, the Queenstown Airport Corporation (QAC); and the third iteration of the SOI in a year – we are still not effectively managing our CCTO.

Just a few things before getting into it:-

Firstly, I do not presume to speak on behalf of my fellow elected members, and hold each in high regard. If you wish to discuss our views on this or anything else, we are all fully available – our contact details are on the QLDC website under ‘Elected Members’.

Secondly, councillors have been advised that we cannot comment on the judicial review or anything related to it, including the QAC Lease or Project Pure.

Thirdly, as far as I am aware, our single CCTO, the Queenstown Airport Corporation (QAC) is a good employer, treats its staff and campus businesses well, and has paid council a chunky dividend for years. In short: it is a corporation that does what it does extremely well, and blaming it for that is like blaming a lion for snacking on your face. It is (and always has been) up to us, Council, to effectively govern and direct it.

Ok, let’s dance.

Not once since the election has Council been invited to discuss our airport infrastructure, the direction we want to take, and how we might go about fixing the damage we have wrought in our community. Similarly, we have never discussed the findings from the Martin Jenkins socio-economic report. (And to apply an Irish expression: it’s not for want of askin’.) A conversation – first requested in Mar – about the wider implications of growth and how to control it, is finally scheduled for Nov.

There are other – let’s call them – housekeeping issues, but that will do for the time being.

On Thu, the revised QAC Statement of Intent (SOI) is on the council meeting agenda for agreement. In my opinion, this document is superior to what is currently in place, but it is far from perfect from a number of perspectives, but particularly the lack – in fact, the rewinding – of any strategic direction.

However, to be fair, I’ve always thought we (Council) should set the strategic direction – and the QAC has specified it expects Council to do this.

Until we do so, I don’t believe QAC is in any position to produce masterplans for either airport.

Councillors have a range of backgrounds, skills and experiences; but we were elected on our perceived ability to represent our community. We do not have the relevant information or analytical skills to be able to dictate a corporate direction for our CCTO.

However, we can (and should, since that is our job) set a high-level strategic direction in our next Statement of Expectation, and require that QAC respond.

For example, here is what I would propose as a starting point:-

  • Maximise efficiency and revenue of Queenstown Airport within existing Air Noise Boundaries
  • Maximise potential of Wanaka Airport, excluding commercial jet aircraft services
  • Any change to either of the above must be subject to robust consultation, within the community directly affected, the outcome of which clearly provides social licence to effect that change

Does it have to be more complicated than that?

I’m always delighted to hear your views, so please feel free to get in touch [email protected] or 021-1739690 "





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