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'Ratepayers shouldn't subsidise construction business': Queenstown Airport CEO Glen Sowry

By TRACEY ROXBURGH

Queenstown Airport Corporation chief executive Glen Sowry alleges one of its tenants, facing a 750% rent increase, erected a fence on more than twice the area being paid for.

Last week, Mountain Scene reported Queenstown Earthworks owner Craig Harpur’s facing a rent increase from $20,000 a year, plus GST, to almost $170,000 a year, plus GST, which he describes as extortionate, ‘‘especially in Covid times’’.

But Sowry says Queenstown Earthworks requested its leased land size be reduced from 2400 square metres to 1000sqm from June 1, 2020.

Its lease expired last June and it had been on a ‘‘monthly holdover’’ since then, paying $20 per sqm, ‘‘well below market value’’, which is between $65 and $85 per sqm, he says, while ‘‘more than half’’ the contractual leased area’s being subleased by  Queenstown Earthworks to other tenants ‘‘for profit’’.

Scene last week reported Harpur sub-leases some of his space to A1 Asphalt and AAA Concrete Pumping Services, permitted under his licence, but he claimed he pays more than his fair share.

However, Sowry says Harpur recently installed a fence on airport land covering about 2600sqm of land — more than double what he leases.

‘‘In light of this, QAC has offered Queenstown Earthworks an agreement which reflects the increased space the tenant is occupying, and is proposing a rate per sqm that brings it closer to market rent.

‘‘Based on the quotes from Mr Harpur published in the media in recent days it is apparent he is expecting to occupy an additional 1600sqm of land at no charge, while continuing to sublease land at a premium.

‘‘As previously stated, Queenstown Airport is currently in a commercial discussion with Mr Harpur.

‘‘We ensure all tenants pay a fair market share for the space they occupy, and apply this approach consistently.’’

Sowry says the airport’s only recently started the discussions with Harpur and will be ‘‘more than happy to consider any feedback’’.

‘‘We do not, however, view it as appropriate that the airport company, and ultimately Queenstown Lakes district ratepayers, heavily subsidise a business operating in the construction industry in Queenstown.’’

tracey.roxburgh@scene.co.nz