Airport company cleared to acquire disputed land

Queenstown Airport. Photo: ODT files
Queenstown Airport. Photo: ODT files
Queenstown Airport Corporation has been cleared to acquire a contentious piece of land, known as Lot 6, which has tied up court time for more than eight years.

The latest decision in the long-running battle between the airport and Remarkables Park Ltd over the 16ha of land was released by Environment Court Judge Jane Borthwick on March 1.

Lot 6 runs along the airport's southern boundary and is owned by Remarkables Park.

The airport company, wanting to expand its facilities, issued a notice to take the land under the Public Works Act 1991.

Remarkables Park lodged an objection with the Environment Court but Judge Borthwick ruled in the airport's favour.

Airport chief executive Colin Keel said this now allowed the airport company

"to move to the next phase of the acquisition process".

The parties still had to agree on a price for the land, through a negotiated settlement outside the Public Works Act.

Should agreement not be reached, compensation would be determined by the Land Valuation Tribunal.

Remarkables Park director Alastair Porter did not respond to a request for comment by deadline.

The development company's objection centered on the airport's "uncertainty" and the impact that had on its master planning; and an expectation the airport would use its land for airport purposes.

Remarkables Park contended two of the three options in the airport's master plan discussion document, released in 2017, contemplated relocating the terminal to increase capacity to 5.1 million passengers a year which, it submitted, was a "change in circumstances".

Judge Borthwick said Remarkables Park had "assumed, without proof" the airport would, or must, accommodate growth in passengers beyond 3.2million,

"We make no such assumption."

Lot 6 had once been owned by the airport and was exchanged with Remarkables Park for land to the north.

Remarkables Park argued taking the land back was "extremely unfair" and the airport company QAC had now essentially "changed its mind".

It contended it would be "procedurally unfair" for the land to be taken until the airport knew more about how it would respond to future passenger growth predictions.

Judge Borthwick found the notice to take was "fair" because it was sound and reasonably necessary, "if not essential", for the airport to achieve its objectives.

She also found "the power to take" was not being used to enable commercial development of the passenger terminal site and determined the acquisition could be pursued.

There was "no evidence" to suggest the process had been procedurally unfair.

In a separate decision, issued on March 5, she ordered Remarkables Park to pay $52,371 to Queenstown Airport Corporation and $19,830.06 to the Queenstown Lakes District Council, relating to

Remarkables Park's appeal to the High Court.

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