Auckland Airport has an insider at Queenstown Airport Corporation – an unofficial director.
Mountain Scene can reveal Auckland Airport corporate affairs boss Charles Spillane sits in on monthly QAC board meetings – he even chips in and is privy to financial discussions.
News of Spillane’s boardroom presence will fan embers of outrage sparked 12 months ago by QAC secretly selling 24.99 per cent of the airport to publicly-listed Auckland Airport for $27.7 million.
Powerful Wakatipu businessmen formed the Queenstown Community Strategic Assets Group which, along with Air New Zealand, tried to kill the deal in court – eventually settling for Auckland abandoning its option on a further 10 per cent.
Neither the original share sale nor the out-of-court settlement entitled Auckland to board seats.
Approached for reaction about Spillane attending QAC meetings, QCSAG’s Ken Matthews – chairman of local conglomerate Skyline – is flabbergasted.
“You’ve got to wonder how a minority shareholder could ever be party to such information.”
Spillane’s been to all board meetings since late 2010, Queenstown Airport boss Steve Sanderson confirms – but only as “an observer”, like 75.01 per cent shareholder Queenstown Lakes District Council. The Aucklander gets most board papers but not financials, Sanderson says – although Spillane stays while financials are discussed.
February and March board minutes obtained by Mountain Scene record Spillane commenting on runway lighting, as well as an “airport owners and operators [insurance] policy” and a “risk appetite review” – both of which he encouraged QAC to participate in.
According to Sanderson, Spillane confines his input to helpful advice: “Like, for example, insurance – Auckland Airport’s a lot bigger than us in terms of their insurance and risk experience.”
Mayor Vanessa van Uden, who usually attends QAC meetings, says she’s comfortable about Spillane’s presence.
However, QLDC wasn’t asked by QAC or Auckland if Spillane could sit in, Van Uden confirms.
Van Uden: “In all honesty, it’s not a bad thing. He has the same sort of input we do as shareholders and it doesn’t seem to be causing any problems to date.”