As cash-hungry Queens-town Airport courted Auckland Airport’s buy-in, it was cobbling together a multi-million dollar bid for the failed Five Mile development.
The revelation is in newly-unveiled documents – Auckland Airport’s application for Overseas Investment Office approval of its Queenstown share buy.
The previously secret OIO information – released to Mountain Scene – repeatedly refers to the intended purchase of a 23-hectare slice of Five Mile – citing it or future commercial development as one of two major reasons for Auckland buying into Queenstown Airport.
Five Mile, an excavation eyesore, adjoins the airport.
Queenstown Airport Corp-oration’s low-ball $14m Five Mile bid didn’t eventually fly – developer Tony Gapes paid $27m for the prime parcel.
QAC’s hush-hush offer has further enraged prominent critics of the airport deal.
Until being gagged by council lawyers, Queenstown councillor Cath Gilmour voiced her opposition – now she’s broken her silence over this latest revelation.
“How much muddier can this saga get?” Gilmour cries.
“And when will the community get the full story – preferably from QAC, not the media?”
Councillors and the public were told the Auckland money was used to pay down debt but it looks as if QAC may have to put it towards developing commercial expansion outside the airport itself, Gilmour says.
“QAC’s strategic focus…will be diluted by Auckland Airport’s bent for property development,” she fears.
Fellow deal critic John Martin, who fronts a group of businesspeople fighting the tie-up between the two airports, is “astounded, utterly gob-smacked” at this week’s revelation.
“But in the context of the overall secrecy that surrounds this, nothing could be a surprise.”
When making its Five Mile play, QAC was in need of a major capital injection – later given as the main reason for selling almost a quarter of the resort airport to Auckland.
Yet the Auckland deal was still up in the air when the $14m Five Mile offer was made and QAC chairman Mark Taylor admits his board winged it over finance.
“We were trying to get a contract on [Five Mile] and work out how we’d fund it second,” Taylor says.
Five Mile would have been used for “commercial/industrial development” as compatible buffer zones for the airport, he says.
“I suspect [Auckland] would have enjoyed the prospect of getting hold of the Five Mile land because it would have had the potential to make it a bigger land development opportunity.”
However, Auckland “concurred it was better to back out” and losing Five Mile wasn’t a deal-breaker for them, Taylor says.
When the Auckland-Queens-town airport tie-up was announced, why keep the unsuccessful Five Mile bid secret?
Taylor: “No one asked us.”