No more airport shares for Auckland – for now

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A controversial agreement for Auckland Airport to increase its shareholding in Queenstown Airport has been ripped up – for now.
 
The two airport’s bosses have issued a joint statement saying both entities have agreed to ditch an option for Queenstown Airport Corporation (QAC) to increase Auckland Airport’s shareholding. Such an agreement would have been reliant on majority shareholder Queenstown Lakes District Council giving its permission. 

Auckland holds a 24.99 per cent stake in Queenstown Airport Corporation, which it bought last year for $27.7 million in a deal kept secret from the community and councillors. 

The deal included an option for Auckland’s shareholding to increase to 35 per cent by June 30 this year. That extra share would give Auckland a seat at the QAC board table and the ability to block major resolutions. 

In a statement, Auckland Airport chief executive Simon Moutter says his company is comfortable with its existing shareholding. 

“While we’ve always acknowledged that we would like a higher shareholding as this would strengthen our winning partnership with Queenstown Airport even further, we appreciate this is not the time to have that discussion. 

“We have also given an undertaking to the council that any future shareholding increase would be on terms, and via a process, which the council as majority shareholder was comfortable with.”
 
Both Moutter and QAC chief executive Mark Taylor both cite pressure of the June 30 deadline on the council and community as a key element behind the cancellation. 

Council faced a “potentially expensive process of community consultation”, the pair say. 

The scrapping of the agreement allows both airports to focus their attention on building passenger volumes into Queenstown Airport, further strengthening its contribution to the district’s economy, their joint statement says. 

“We believe that this is all the more important as a result of the impact of the Christchurch earthquake on the community and industry.” 

Taylor adds: “Our emphasis will be on welcoming the more than 90 people-strong China Southern Airlines delegation arriving in Queenstown next month, as well as making sure Queenstown Airport is meeting the needs of airlines as they rebuild their route networks following the Christchurch earthquake.” 

“It is imperative, with so many businesses relying on a strong winter season, that we maximise the capacity of the airport for this winter,” Taylor says. 

Queenstown mayor Vanessa van Uden – a councillor when the initial deal was done – says there’s no ideal outcome but this decision gives all parties some certainty. 

“As a community we still need to understand what this deal means,” she says.