QLDC: councillors clash over airport trust issue

by Peter Newport - Jun 30, 2022

QLDC councillors have approved the Statement of Intent for the Queenstown Airport Corporation, even though the airport’s crucial ten-year Strategic Plan was missing from the document.

Cath Gilmour - concerned that QLDC was signing off an incomplete document.

Debate at today’s full council meeting centred on the fact that the Statement of Intent, the annual plan that QLDC signs off as majority shareholder, did not include the airport’s own 10-year strategy.

There was also concern from airport lobby group We Love Wakatipu who made submissions during the public forum section of the council meeting.

Group Chair Cath Gilmour challenged councillors at the start of the meeting.

“This SOI indicates the 2023 – 32 Strategic Plan already exists in some form. Do you know what is in it beyond the broad outline on pages 14 and 15?  Have you seen it, discussed it, agreed to it?

“If not, and if you agree to this SOI, you are implicitly agreeing to a Strategic Plan you know no details of and you are explicitly accepting that QAC has the right to overrule your governance.”

The SOI document submitted to QLDC for approval only contains some coloured panels as an indication of what is actually in the strategic 10 year plan.

The SOI includes only a short summary of the airport's 10 year strategic plan.

A number of councillors agreed with Cath Gilmour that the absence of the 10 year Strategic Plan raised the risk that the SOI was being signed off without proper visibility of where the airport corporation was actually heading.

Penny Clark - "trust the airport"

The split in councillors’ positions, by now a familiar one, was that one group wanted to “trust the airport” and another group wanted more substance before signing off the airport’s plans.

Councillor Penny Clark summed up the first group’s view.

“We need to restore trust with the airport. We are now splitting hairs. The QAC Board is excellent, we should take a risk, fulfil our side of the bargain and trust the board.”

Councillor Esther Whitehead spoke against accepting the SOI without the 10 year Strategic Plan being in place and declared.

“We should stop talking about trust issues. This is about the partnership between QAC and QLDC, not about people. “

Councillor Whitehead went on, supported by Councillor Gladding, saying that  the missing 10 year plan was crucial.

However only four councillors voted to reject adoption of the SOI – Quentin Smith, Niamh Shaw, Esther Whitehead and Niki Gladding. Mayor Jim Boult, Councillors Lewers, Miller, Copland, Clark and MacLeod all supported the SOI.

Crux asked the Queenstown Airport Corporation why the 10 year plan was missing from their Statement of Intent.

Niki Gladding and Esther Whitehead - both wanted the 10 year strategic plan to be revealed before signing off the SOI

“The QAC Board and management is genuinely committed to engagement with the shareholders on the strategic direction of the company and the associated 10-year strategic plan.

“The 10-year strategic plan referred to in today's meeting is currently being drafted. Once the draft plan has been approved by the QAC Board it will be shared with shareholders for input and review. This is due to occur in Q1 FY23, as outlined in the SOI FY23. 

“Given the 10-year strategic plan is still in development and has yet to be approved by the QAC Board it would not be appropriate to provide the strategic plan to media before shareholders have received it and had the opportunity for a QLDC/QAC workshop or the like and strong engagement and discussion. It will in due course be made public.

“There is information about the strategic planning process included in the SOI on pages 12-15.”

Sara Irvine, QAC Comms.

You can read the full SOI here.

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