Company law cited over airport aims

Mayor Jim Boult
Jim Boult
Queenstown Mayor Jim Boult has warned his council it could be taken to court by Auckland International Airport.

The Queenstown Lakes District Council (75.01%) is the majority owner of the Queenstown Airport Corporation (QAC) and Auckland International Airport (24.99%) the minority owner.

At a meeting yesterday, the council adopted a "statement of expectation" dictating to the QAC what the council expects to see in the QAC’s "statement of intent" next month.

During discussion of one of the three amendments to the statement of expectation, Mr Boult said he did not think the council should "lock themselves into a position" before consultants MartinJenkins delivered to council their airport development economic and social impact studies.

"I would not like us to be placed in a position where we are subject to legal challenge by the minority shareholder.

"I’m very worried if we did this that we’d place ourselves in a position of effectively disadvantaging one of the shareholders to the advantage of another shareholder.

"And, under company law, without going and looking at the rule book, I’m rather sure we’d put ourselves in some strife."

He and Cr Penny Clark voted against the amendment - moved by Cr John MacDonald - which leaves the QAC committed to "no further changes" to noise boundaries at Queenstown Airport until the economic and social impact assessments were completed.

Wanaka Stakeholders Group chairman Michael Ross said after the meeting Mr Boult’s warning told him the "tail was wagging the dog".

"Auckland International Airport is controlling things and certainly not the council."

A wording change suggested by Cr Clark to make it a commercial objective of the QAC to maintain rather than grow long-term shareholder value was not accepted by the council.

The council's adopted statement of expectation requires the QAC ''to have a commitment to retaining and growing long-term shareholder value''.     

The statement of expectation process was praised by Wanaka Cr Quentin Smith who said it adhered "quite closely" to the Local Government Act which was "really important" to him.

Among other requirements, the QAC will need to "work in partnership" with the council on development plans for Queenstown or Wanaka Airport.

It will also be required to engage with the public in an "open and transparent manner", and to collaborate with Dunedin and Invercargill Airports on "visitor dispersal".

That collaboration would need to be "within legal parameters" and protecting of QAC’s commercial integrity.


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