Airport bid ‘predatory activity’

Queenstown Lakes Mayor Jim Boult has labelled a move by Christchurch City Council to profit from the district a "predatory activity" designed, he says, to attack the value of Queenstown Airport.

Mr Boult calls the decision by Christchurch International Airport Ltd’s (CIAL) majority shareholder to purchase land at Tarras for a proposed airport an "unwelcome intrusion into our district".

That, he says, is "simply unfathomable and morally questionable".

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Photo: ODT File

Mr Boult’s comments were made in a letter to Queenstown Airport board’s boss Adrienne Young-Cooper in September.

The letter, released to Allied Press under the Official Information Act, says while he questions the "logic, the morality and the chances of a Tarras airport ever becoming a reality", the council can’t "simply ignore the matter".

"CIAL has spent in the order of $45million buying the land and, therefore, we can only assume it is serious about the proposal to create an airport.

"For our part, QLDC intends to investigate what reasonable steps it [may] take to oppose CIAL’s endeavours".

Mr Boult’s letter — also sent to his chief executive Mike Theelen, Queenstown Airport’s chief executive Colin Keel and minority shareholder Auckland International Airport’s Adrian Littlewood — is scathing of the plans by Christchurch Airport and says a wide-body capable international airport, a 90-minute drive from Queenstown, "can only have its sights set to compete with QAC’s Queenstown Airport and possibly Wanaka Airport in the future".

Mr Boult, CIAL’s chief executive from 2009 to 2013, said it was "quite surprising" to learn of Christchurch Airport’s plans, about an hour before they were publicly announced in July.

"The greater surprise, though, is that a 75%-owned subsidiary of another council would choose to compete with another 75%-owned subsidiary of our council.

"I’m not sure that territorial authorities have that as one of their things to do; to compete with each other in a commercial sense."

"Effectively, that is what’s happening here."

Mr Boult wrote to Christchurch mayor Lianne Dalziel two or three weeks ago, "expressing my disappointment and asking for her views".

Ms Dalziel responded yesterday.

Mr Boult said he could not say what steps QLDC might take until he understood the views of Christchurch Airport’s controlling shareholder.

A meeting between Mr Boult and Christchurch Airport’s chief executive, Malcolm Johns, was cancelled on Tuesday.

Christchurch Airport communications manager Yvonne Densem said it would be rescheduled.



I believe Mr Boult is out of order in his comments. He nor his council have a monopoly over any business in our local area. He does not control who can do what. It is his council in Queenstown and their airport partners that have created an environment of greed. Whenever a business is publicly seen to make larger profits than may well be normal in the market this will attract others to enter the market. CHCH's Airport entering the market shows there is enough money to allow them to invest. They were also clever enough to locate in an area that is not controlled by QLDC. It is controlled by the former Vincent County Council which is now called Central Otago District Council (CODC). Very few people trust what the public is told about the future of Wanaka and Queenstown Airports. I am now sure we will see QLDC trying to get their friends on to CODC. The only other way to address this is for QLDC to lower the landing fees. Be clear about their intentions on Wanaka Airport. Get the public on their side instead of being off-side with the people they represent. Their own greed is their downfall. An open market is working and so it should. I for one support CHCH Airport.

Competition - a dirty word for monopolists. We the customer lose out big time when it does not exist. For example, we only have 2 supermarket groups to buy our stuff from and as a result we pay 20-30% more than Sydney or London shoppers - why? Competition. Have we also forgotten how we were paying through the nose for domestic flights before Ansett & Jetstar? That is why price-gougers hate competition.