Airport boss lands on board

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Queenstown Airport’s board has quietly acquired a new director.

Mark Thomson, Auckland Airport’s property boss, was endorsed by Queenstown’s councillors at a closed-door session on June 23.

The local council is the airport company’s major shareholder, on behalf of the community.

The board appointment might re-open wounds from 2010 for many Queenstowners.

In that year Auckland Airport, New Zealand’s biggest airport company, bought almost a quarter of Queenstown Airport Corporation in a secret deal.

Initially, City Hall played cute over Thomson’s appointment.

Newly-appointed chief spin doctor Naell Crosby-Roe told Mountain Scene: “We are not in a position to confirm any appointments as they have yet to be made.

“Once these decisions have been made we anticipate making a general announcement in August.”

But yesterday Crosby-Roe was contradicted by Queenstown mayor Jim Boult, who says: “We have already appointed Mark Thomson – it is a case of [Crosby-Roe] not being quite up to speed yet.”

Outgoing airport company chairman John Gilks, speaking from Noosa, says he raised an Auckland Airport appointment with Boult soon after his election to the mayoralty last year.

Boult says: “I agreed.

“Council considered the matter and elected to offer Auckland Airport the ability to appoint a director and they nominated Mark, who has been there for some time [as an observer].”

Gilks says Thomson’s observer status came with no responsibilities.

“I’ve been keen for quite a long time to see Auckland Airport either have nobody there, in other words they’ve just got a shareholding, or alternatively have a director appointed.”

Auckland Airport’s appointment to the board is a step in the right direction, he says.

The company’s never interfered and has been quick to offer support and expertise.

“I give them 10 out of 10 every time,” Gilks says.

“People have got to get over this Auckland bit.”

Boult is similarly dismissive of any hangover fears from 2010.

“It is not a change of direction, it is just recognising reality.”

Asked if there was anything behind the move, Boult counters: “I think you are trying to draw something out of it, David, that is not there.

“It is simply a commercial appointment – there are no other discussions taking place.

“If your next question is, ‘is there any consideration of Auckland Airport taking more shares?’, absolutely not. Full stop.”

Gilks is retiring from the board and the only other local director, James Hadley, who’s been on the board since 2008, is up for rotation.

Boult says there’s a “strong desire particularly for a new chair to have a local address”.

Queenstown Airport’s statement of intent signals the company’s intention to lift revenue by $10 million, to $53.9m, by 2020 – and hike dividends from the $6.6m forecast this year to $7.8m in 2020.

david@scene.co.nz