Ex-airport chief denies deal agreed

Former Queenstown Airport chief Steve Sanderson denies he agreed with Remarkables Park Ltd co-director Alastair Porter to the building of large-format retail premises on disputed land in Frankton, the Environment Court heard this week.

Mr Sanderson, chief executive of Wellington International Airport since February 2012, returned for cross-examination on the discussions and agreements between neighbours Queenstown Airport Corporation and Remarkables Park before the corporation drafted a notice of requirement in 2008.

Mr Sanderson said he was informed in May 2008 about Remarkables Park's private plan change 34, which provided for large format retailers in the area known as Lot 6.

The corporation shared legal advice with its major shareholder, the Queenstown Lakes District Council, and was satisfied a covenant prohibited such development on the vacant section.

Remarkables Park counsel Royden Somerville QC, of Dunedin, asked when the corporation seriously considered using Lot 6. He referred Mr Sanderson to a paragraph in the Queenstown Airport master plan 2023 update of July 2008, which said 18ha was available to the north of general aviation and flightseeing parking and hangar reserves for a general-aviation-use business and/or industrial park.

''Further commercial opportunities exist in the area south and west of the main terminal, fronting on to the western access road,'' the airport update said.

''This area has a large amount of roadside frontage and is therefore considered prime land for commercial development.''

Thursday was the fourth day this week of Judge Jane Borthwick and two commissioners hearing the issues of ''legitimate expectation'' and fairness between the airport and Remarkables Park over the use of Lot 6, located south of the runway.

Also at issue is the corporation's bid to alter its existing aerodrome designation to include the section and use it for general aviation, helicopter and corporate jet operations.

Lot 6 owner Remarkables Park maintains land the airport gained in an exchange to the north of the runway is suitable for the air park instead and raised the ''scarcity of industrial land''.

However, Mr Sanderson told the court there were ''numerous operational constraints'' to the north which made Lot 6 the preferred location.

Most operators backed the airport's preference because they were concerned about the predominant southern wind, helicopters struggling with approaches, fixed-wing aircraft struggling with taxiways and the wash from jet airliners landing and taking off, if they were based to the north.

Air New Zealand counsel James Gardner-Hopkins, of Wellington, told the hearing the airport was growing and it was important services were not constrained by the existing configuration.

The neutral airline urged the court to reach a decision ''to minimise further delays and uncertainty'', he said.

Judge Borthwick reminded counsels the court did not stand in the way of the parties mediating an outcome, although she described their positions as ''poles apart''.

Dr Somerville and airport counsel Matthew Casey QC, of Auckland, said their clients were not opposed to mediation, but Mr Casey said the corporation ''has tried for years to sit around the table to get a resolution''.

The judge said the court could see the ''permutations'' of either confirming, or cancelling the airport's notice of requirement, or examining how much Lot 6 land was needed by the corporation.

Splitting corporate jet services from general aviation and helicopter services and placing jet operations only on the southern section, plus the idea of the corporation buying Lot 6 from Remarkables Park were voiced.

The hearing concluded on Thursday and the decision will be issued by the judge ''in due course''.

Plan change 19 to rezone the 69ha of greenfield Frankton Flats for a mix of uses took another step towards resolution yesterday with the release of the second interim decision by the Environment Court.

Judge Borthwick approved the resource management issues, objectives and policies for the plan change, except for activity areas ''A'' and ''E2'' and the outline development plans, which will follow in a later decision.