Ex-mayor slams secret airport deal

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Former mayor Warren Cooper is slamming a council decision to sell off part of Queenstown Airport – labelling it a “local tragedy”. 

Speaking to Queenstown Lakes District councillors today, Cooper warns that the secret 24.99 per cent share sale to Auckland International Airport Ltd could affect the airport’s future success. 

“One of the great things [about Queenstown] is we have been able to row our own boat and that’s why I’m determined to make certain that we continue to row our own boat by being ratepayers and residents that know very clearly that our future and our heritage are both wrapped up…with a well-run airport,” Cooper says. 

“Suddenly we have got a bad aberration and you [QLDC] are in the middle of that aberration.” 

Cooper recalled his experience as Local Government Minister in the early 1990s – when he formed the Auckland Regional Services Trust – to offer councillors advice on cutting deals with the private sector. 

“When you bring private sector people in they have to know what their responsibility is – they must report to shareholders. And in this particular case it hasn’t happened, which is a local tragedy.” 

With some local “judicious business acumen” Queenstown Airport can be developed to a level where its success “will spread like gold”. 

Cooper was one of three local men who spoke ahead of the council’s behind-closed-doors meeting today to discuss legal proceedings issued against it by Air New Zealand over the controversial share sale. 

Also speaking, Chamber of Commerce chairman Alastair Porter urged QLDC to hold a special general meeting to revoke the part of Queenstown Airport Corporation’s constitution that enabled the sale of shares while lawyer Phil Wilson says it’s a “great mistake” QLDC no longer appoints a councillor to the airport board. 

About 20 members of the public turned up to voice their opinions at what they thought was a public forum opportunity – but were legally gagged if they planned to speak about anything but litigation matters.