Anger over airport sale at committee

Ken CoplandTempers flared at a committee meeting yesterday as a Wanaka Community Board member refused to be silenced during a spat about the Queenstown Airport shares sales controversy.

Ken Copland said he was "disgusted by the whole affair" and would not be silenced, despite warnings from committee chairman John S. Wilson.

Mr Copland's remarks followed a financial report presentation to the Finance And Corporate Accountability Committee by Queenstown Airport chief executive Steve Sanderson, who reported an operating revenue of $13.39 million for the six-month period up to June 30 2010, an increase of 19% on the 2009 figure.

After the presentation Mr Sanderson invited the committee to ask questions regarding the report and Mr Copland responded.

"This all looks very good but you guys are often better known for what you don't tell us," he said.

Cr Wilson reminded Mr Copland the subject of the shares controversy was not relevant to the meeting.

"I warn you that this issue is being discussed outside of council. This is a matter for the courts and is not open for discussion," he said.

But Mr Copland continued: "I am an elected council man. I have a duty to protect and vigilantly endorse our representation to the ratepayers."

Cr Wilson then issued a further warning and asked for the discussion to be closed but Mr Copland had not finished: "Trying to cover up the whole affair doesn't make it disappear. Making secret deals is simply not a good idea. It's like a mini-Watergate, for goodness' sake."

The other six members of the committee did not speak. When Cr Wilson moved that Mr Sanderson's report be received, only Mr Copland and Cr Vanessa van Uden opposed the motion.

A strategic alliance was announced in July between the QAC and Auckland International Airport Ltd. The latter bought a 24.9% shareholding for $27.7 million and may increase that to between 30% and 35%, if invited by the QLDC, after public consultation.

Mr Copland is standing for re-election to the Wanaka Community Board.

- Naeem Alvi