First election candidates’ pow-wow kicks off in Queenstown


Queenstown Lakes’ ballooning debt and the controversial airport share sale were the hot topics at the resort’s first major election candidates’ meeting last night.

But while local mayoral and council hopefuls had plenty to say about rates and how to improve the books, few voiced an opinion on the 24.99 per cent sale of Queenstown Airport to Auckland International Airport because of a legal gag.

Chamber of Commerce board member and lawyer Phil Wilson told Wakatipu, Arrowtown and Wanaka ward candidates at the Memorial Hall they’re allowed to express a view providing they keep an “open mind” on matters they could be informed about in the future.

Current councillors John Mann, Lex Perkins and Mel Gazzard chose not to comment, as did Wakatipu ward contender Annette Dalziel and mayoral hopeful Simon Hayes says he can’t comment without the detail.

Wakatipu ward runners Preston Stevens, Geoff Wilson, Grahame Thorne say they’re “open-minded”.

Arrowtown ward candidate Simon Spark says he disagrees with the secret process but: “We have to fund big ticket items and we have to find a way to do that. I’m not sure if selling airport shares is the answer.”

Mayoral hopeful Vanessa van Uden made her position clear by placing emphasis on two words: “I can’t say whether, or not, I support the transaction and I can’t comment whether, or not, I would support the second stage.”

Wakatipu ward’s Russell Mawhinney says he’s “not unhappy with the outcome” and Simon Stamers-Smith says: “My view is they did bloody well to get $28 million to get less than 25 per cent of that company.”

Fellow Wakatipu ward contenders Karen Swaine and Trevor Tattersfield don’t support the deal. Kevin Peterson and incumbent councillor Cath Gilmour, who were unable to attend the meeting, are also opponents.

More than 100 people turned up to hear the candidates answer Chamber questions they’d had a chance to prepare for.