People power wins, for now

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Resort mayor Jim Boult hopes economic and social impact studies into the future of Queenstown and Wanaka’s airports will be done by the end of next year’s first quarter.

At Monday’s lively extraordinary council meeting, a majority of councillors again rejected Queenstown Airport Corporation’s latest crack at a draft statement of intent – its strategy for the next three years.

In the minority were Boult, who’s standing again at October’s elections, and councillors Scotty Stevens, Tony Hill and Ross McRobie, who aren’t.

Councillors, however, unanimously supported Boult’s motion preventing QAC from extending Queenstown Airport’s noise boundaries, and any work on the development of commercial air services at Wanaka airport, till those studies are completed.

Council’s about to ask for suitably-qualified parties to do those reports, Boult says.

seeking really wide feedback on that, and we’re not just going to listen to [anti-airport growth] pressure groups.

“That exercise will come up with the right answers.”

QAC is a council-controlled trading organisation. The council owns 75.01 per cent, Auckland Airport the rest.

Currently, Boult says it’s “extremely difficult” to know what the entire community thinks. He says he’s been peppered with emails, texts, phone calls and people in the street taking a different view from those pressure groups.

During Monday meeting’s public forum, former councillor Cath Gilmour launched a ‘Protect Queenstown’ campaign run by new society We Love Wakatipu.

It’s aligned with Wanaka Stakeholders Group’s ‘Protect Wanaka’ campaign, which has threatened legal action against the council.

“We want our elected representatives to act on our shared concerns on proposed airport growth,” she says.

She calls the social and economic impact assessments a delaying tactic, rather than a definitive ‘no’.

“The results will be looked at sceptically unless our community can trust from the start that these assessments look at all strategic options available – not just QAC’s dual airport growth strategy – through the lens of community interest and aspirations rather than airline- and QAC-driven demand.”

A whopping 95 per cent of the 1500 respondents opposed Queenstown Airport’s noise boundary expansion plans, when QAC consulted in August 2018, prompting it to look further into a dual airport approach.

QAC has been told to bring back a revised SOI in October.

scoop@scene.co.nz