Airport deal’s first casualty

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A Wakatipu lobby group opposing Queenstown Airport’s share sale calls the chairman’s forced resignation a “step in the right direction”. 

Queenstown Airport Corp-oration chairman Mark Taylor – who oversaw Auckland International Airport’s controversial share buy-in last year – yesterday announced he was quitting. 

In a statement Taylor said Queenstown Lakes District Council – the majority shareholder of QAC – voted to remove him if he didn’t agree to resign in seven days. 

The announcement comes a month before the High Court is to sit in Queenstown for legal proceedings brought against QLDC, QAC and Auckland Airport by Air New Zealand – and powerful local businessmen who formed the Queenstown Community Strategic Assets Group (QSAG) to oppose the deal. 

The two parties sought a judicial review of the deal and an injunction to stop the issue of further shares after Auckland secretly bought 24.99 per cent of QAC for $27.7 million. An option to increase its shareholding to 35 per cent was dropped last month by Auckland. 

Yesterday, QSAG spokesman Richard Mehrtens wouldn’t comment on whether the legal proceedings would continue but of Taylor’s resignation said: “It’s another step in the right direction.” 

An Air NZ spokeswoman also wouldn’t comment on the High Court action. 

Mayor Vanessa van Uden says as far as she’s aware the court case is proceeding. 

Van Uden refuses to comment on whether the council decision was unanimous or whether she used her casting vote. 

“We need to go forward and the council needs to make sure the airport position is consolidated and that for us and the community, the airport company needs to remain successful – that’s of critical importance.” 

Taylor’s resignation comes a day after QAC and Auckland Airport hosted a high-powered, 70-strong Chinese delegation in Queenstown. 

The group flew to Auckland on the inaugural China Southern Airlines flight from Guangzhou. Wellington and Queenstown were the only other destinations involved in the tour. Tourism revenues from the new flights are eventually expected to reach $180m per year.