Wider community in dark until Queenstown Airport's 10-year plan operational

by Kim Bowden - Sep 01, 2022

What the future will look like for Queenstown’s Airport has been set out in a 10-year plan that will be presented to the wider public at the same time it becomes operational.

Queenstown Lakes District councillors have had a preview of the document and at a workshop earlier this week provided feedback on it.

Queenstown Airport chief executive Glen Sowry, who attended the workshop along with the airport's Simon Flood and Melissa Brook, has told Crux his team will now incorporate the feedback into the plan, with a view to finalise it and share it publicly by the end of September.

Queenstown Airport chief executive Glen Sowry says feedback from councillors at a workshop earlier this week will be incorporated into the airport's 10-year plan, which will be made public once operational at the end of September (Image supplied).

“We expect the plan to become operational at that time,” he says.

So, what’s in the plan and did the workshop reveal any sticking points?

When questioned by Crux both the airport chief executive and the QLDC have remained relatively tight-lipped on this.

The “majority of councillors have indicated their support for the direction of the plan” and “there was some constructive and valuable feedback provided”, Mr Sowry says.

A spokesperson for the QLDC says the workshop had been initiated by the airport and Crux should refer to the airport for any further comment.

Councillor Niki Gladding, who's unsuccessfully fought for stronger involvement by councillors in the plan process, says the level of growth and expenditure that the airport’s board wants to enable through its adoption of the 10-year plan has her “worried” for local communities and the achievement of the council’s emissions targets.

“The scary thing is that the Statement of Intent empowers the board to deliver on this plan.”

The QLDC is a majority shareholder in the airport.

In February, the council unanimously signed off on a Statement of Expectation that included a desire for the airport to be “proactive and early” in engaging with the council on its draft 10-year plan.

Also in the Statement of Expectation, that the council would lead consultation on the plan; and that the plan would be formally agreed to by the council before becoming operational.

However, the airport had pushed back saying, among other things, strategic planning of the aviation facility is complicated and requires consultation much wider than the council and the ratepayer – it needs to be airport-led.

By the time the airport’s Statement of Intent had been signed off by councillors in June (Councillors Quentin Smith, Niamh Shaw, Niki Gladding and Esther Whitehead did vote against it) the expectations that had been laid out by councillors in February had been, in part, watered down - the 10-year plan consultation process had been agreed to be airport-led and the final plan did not require council agreement.

At this June meeting, councillor Gladding had pushed hard for the council to retain its right to be involved in formally agreeing to the plan – introducing an unsuccessful amendment to do so.

Councillor Niki Gladding has unsuccessfully fought for councillors to retain more control of the airport's long-term planning process, and now she says the growth and expenditure she's seen planned for has her 'worried'.

She says on August 15 councillors had been presented with a copy of the airport’s draft 10-year plan.

“It was in colour, on heavy duty paper, spiral bound, and clearly ready for speedy sign off by the Board. 

“It was the very first time councillors had seen it or had any input into it.”

That’s despite a commitment from the airport’s board to “proactively engage with its shareholders on its development and content”, she says.  

“The company is now considering detailed feedback from some councillors, but what it changes will be up to the board.”

She thinks the airport can do better, especially as it has publicly stated that consulting with shareholders and the community is “an integral part” of its strategic planning, she says.

“I’d like to challenge (the airport's) board to show some commitment to building back trust with the community.

"I’d like it to agree to socialise the draft with the community before it’s agreed. 

“There’s nothing to prevent that occurring and it’s the right thing to do.”

However Mr Sowry says the airport has consulted “extensively” on the plan for the last year with a “wide range of stakeholders including resident community groups, local business leaders, regional tourism organisations, and the wider local aviation community, to name a few”.

Although a draft of the plan had only been shared with councillors in mid-August, the airport has also been “clearly communicating” “key elements” of the plan during the latest Statement of Intent process, he says.

“The 10-year Strategic Plan is a living document and will be regularly reviewed and updated as required over the coming years to ensure it remains relevant as inevitable macro conditions change and evolve.”

The airport will soon start developing its draft master plan – this document will outline the activity that will give effect to the 10-year plan and the airport has "committed to working collaboratively" with the QLDC on community engagement throughout the process, which is anticipated to take around 12 months to complete, he says.

“Throughout the engagement process on the master plan development there will be many opportunities for members of the community along with a wide range of other relevant stakeholders to provide input and feedback to help shape the final master plan.”  

Main image (Facebook/Queenstown Airport)

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