Queenstown Airport’s Auckland buy-in agreement stays secret

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Queenstown Airport Corporation’s chairman won’t say if, or when, details of its controversial share deal will be made public. 

Mark Taylor says QAC’s board has decided not to release its sale-and-purchase agreement for Auckland International Airport buy­­­­ing a 24.99 per cent share
for $27.7 million. 

“Company policy is that private agreements are not disclosed,” Taylor says. 

“It’s a commercial docu­­ment and normal terms of business [are that] docu­ments are kept confidential.” 

A sale-and-purchase agree­­ment might cover matters such as payment terms, further share purchases, flows of financial information, the possible outline of a future shareholders’ agreement – and details of joint marketing, an initiative trumpeted when the surprise deal was announced on July 8. 

Taylor likens the agreement with Auckland to those QAC has with Air New Zealand or Jetstar. “The documents remain private and don’t enter the public domain.” 

Is there something in the paperwork that an airline or rival airport might be able to use against QAC? “I can’t think of anything off the top of my head but you should never say never as you never know where these things turn up.” 

Taylor says there might be something on paper that should stay secret to protect QAC’s position or that of controlling shareholder Queens­­­town Lakes District Council. 

Something that’s anti-competitive? “No, no. These documents are always available to the Commerce Commission if they want to ask under their powers.” 

Taylor says he’s had a pile of Official Information Act requests over the deal but QAC won’t budge on its secretive stance. 

As majority shareholder, however, QLDC has been given a copy of the sale-and-purchase agreement and could therefore face Official Information requests too. 

Taylor is unworried about complaints to the Ombuds­man over non-disclosure: “It’s very clear in our view that it’s a commercial arrangement and doesn’t require disclosure under the OIA.” 

John Martin, a spokesman for the Queenstown Comm­­unity Strategic Assets Group, confirms his group has asked the Office of the Auditor-General to review the process by which the deal was reached. His group of high-powered businessfolk was formed after the deal was announced.