SOI rejection ‘democracy in action’ says Boult

Pictured: One public submission from a man who collected a large bag of rubbish on his walk to the meeting —  questioning how much filthier does the district need to get before Council wakes up. Photo: Supplied.

Queenstown Lakes District Council (QLDC) held an Extraordinary General Meeting on Monday August 26 to accept the revised Statement of Intent from Queenstown Airport Corporation (QAC) that had previously been rejected back in June. QAC had had two months to revise, edit and address issues that had been highlighted to them by Council, but it proved for nought. After a bombardment of public opposition, their Statement of Intent was not accepted, leaving QAC somewhat hanging in the wind. 

Philosophically, Boult commented to the Wanaka Sun, “[Monday’s] Council meeting showed the democratic process in action. Individual Councillors brought different views to the discussion, listened to the community, and cast votes according to what they believed in.”

In Boult’s opening remarks he thanked the number of people who came to submit against airport expansion, but then said, “In the interest of balance, my inbox is literally peppered with people who have a different view on the matter but say they are too intimidated to make any comment.” This was met with derisory laughter from the packed audience. 

Mark Sinclair, deputy chair of Wanaka Stakeholder Group said, “We seek transparency and real community involvement —  not deals done behind closed doors, or private conversations. It's fine for people to have opposing views — that's what you expect in a democracy. But for the Mayor to say that he must give equal weighting to private messages (which we can't even see) as he does to the concerns of our 2700+ strong membership is ludicrous.”

The Wanaka Sun asked Boult if he could indicate the actual number of people who have shown their support for Wanaka Airport. He replied, “I haven’t kept the number, but it includes many who speak to me in the street and call me by phone as well. Of course it doesn’t match those of the Wanaka Stakeholders Group, but I haven’t sent out teams canvassing for support as they have done.”

QAC CEO Colin Keel opened with remarks stating, “I can assure you we are liaising with and listening to our majority shareholder. To that end, and following the June council meeting, we had been focussed on working with council and the QLDC executive team in revising the SOI to take into feedback of councillors as representatives of the community as well as recent public statement by the mayor.”

But councillor Alexa Forbes didn’t buy it. “I hear there has been engagement between QLDC and QAC following a workshop where we had very limited time to put our views forward, but it was not minuted so how do we know? But I’ve seen no version of the SOI, despite Colin saying he’s had these discussions with QLDC but none of that has ever come to councillors. I would like to know from Michael Collins if it was minuted and how we know what happened in those discussions, and how you were directed?”

The revised SOI is full of contradictions according to councillor Penny Clarke who expressed a desire to have faith in the promised economic and social impact assessments, but felt nervous as to whether they would be followed through. Keel tried to allay her fears by saying, “We have agreed, and made it explicit and consistent where we have said we will not increase the noise boundary, or introduce essential services at Wanaka Airport until the social and economic assessments are done.” 

Boult added, “QAC understands that [as a result of these assessments] there may be no increase,” to which Keel said, “We have spoken to our shareholders and they understand that.” 

What comes next is clear according to John HiIlhorst of Queenstown’s Flight Plan 2050. “The effect of this motion is that Council has decided to not agree to the statement of intent as per section 65(2)(a) of the Local Government Act 2002, and therefore 65(2)(b) applies. The Act makes clear that Council’s obligation to ‘take all practical steps under clause 5 of Schedule 8 to require the statement of intent to be modified’ automatically kicks in as soon as council decided that it could not agree to the SOI as per 65(2)(a).

“To be crystal clear, under the law of section 65(2)(b): The local authority must (Council has no alternative) take all practicable steps under clause 5 of Schedule 8 require the SOI to be modified.”

When asked about the actual next steps QAC needs to take to create an SOI that would be acceptable to QLDC and the time frame required, Keel said it was QLDC’s responsibility to answer that. The SOI is now in stalemate as Boult replied, “At this stage we do not have a view as to when the new SOI will be brought to Council."

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