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An Auckland Airport manager has been quietly added to Queenstown Airport’s board.
Mark Thomson, Auckland Airport’s general manager of property, was endorsed by Queenstown Lakes district councillors during a closed-door session on June 23.
The move may send shivers down the spine of many in Queenstown who remember the blood-letting in 2010, when Auckland Airport bought almost a quarter of Queenstown Airport Corporation in a secret deal.
The Auckland company kept its 24.99% stake after an aborted court challenge, a complaint to the auditor-general, who did not investigate, and the eventual ousting of then board chairman Mark Taylor.
Mountain Scene asked the council — which owns 75.01% of the airport company on behalf of the community — about Mr Thomson’s appointment.
Initially, the council’s communications and engagement manager, Naell Crosby-Roe, said: "We are not in a position to confirm any appointments as they have yet to be made.
"Once these decisions have been made we anticipate making a general announcement in August."
But he was contradicted yesterday by Queenstown Lakes Mayor Jim Boult.
"We have already appointed Mark Thomson — it is a case of [Mr Crosby-Roe] not being quite up to speed yet," Mr Boult said.
Companies Office records, signed by Mr Thomson and lodged by Queenstown Airport Corporation chief financial officer Mark Edghill, confirm the appointment.
Outgoing airport company chairman John Gilks, speaking from Noosa, said he raised an Auckland Airport appointment to the board with Mr Boult soon after last year’s election.
Mr Boult said: "I agreed. Council considered the matter and elected to offer Auckland Airport the ability to appoint a director and they nominated Mark, who has been there for some time [as an observer]."
Mr Gilks said he had been keen to appoint someone from Auckland Airport to the board for years and described it as a "step in the right direction".
"People have got to get over this Auckland bit."
Mr Boult said rather than a change of direction, the appointment was "recognising reality".
He added: "It is simply a commercial appointment — there are no other discussions taking place.
"If your next question is, ‘Is there any consideration of Auckland Airport taking more shares?’, absolutely not. Full stop."
Mr Gilks is retiring from the Queenstown Airport Corporation board and the only other local director, Queenstown’s James Hadley, who has been on the board since 2008, is up for rotation.
Mr Boult said there was a "strong desire, particularly for a new chair, to have a local address".
Queenstown Airport’s latest statement of intent signals the company’s intention to lift revenue by $10million to $53.9million by 2020, and increase dividends from the $6.6million forecast this year to $7.8million in 2020.