Company undecided about airport’s offer

Queenstown Airport has offered $18.4million compensation to the former owner of land adjacent to the runway.

The "Lot 6" acquisition was finally made in November 2019, after years of legal wrangling with then owner Remarkables Park Ltd.

A spokesman for the former landowners said they were "regrettably" finding it difficult to "assess the offer" without supporting valuation analysis and had not yet decided whether to accept it.

He added that on the "basis of available information including comparative land sales and discussions" the company "certainly cannot understand the offer".

The land sits almost entirely parallel to the runway and was given to the airport for aerodrome purposes under the Public Works Act, following a proclamation by the Governor-General of New Zealand and Minister for Land Information.

The airport first tried to buy the 16ha of land in 2008, with an ambition to move general aviation buildings and companies from their current location around the south and west edges of the airfield.

Money for the purchase would come from existing budgets and "bank facilities", according to the airport corporation annual report released yesterday.

If an agreement could not be reached between the two sides, it would go to the Land Valuation Tribunal.

The annual report also revealed profit was up for the year, but only because of Covid-19 tax breaks from the Government.

Income had fallen, as had the dividends paid to shareholders Queenstown Lakes District Council and Auckland International Airport Ltd, from $7.1million last year down to $1million.

The airport suffered a collapse in international and domestic trade as a result of the virus.

Chief executive Colin Keel has taken a 20% pay cut since March, but his basic salary had risen over the period July 1, 2019 to June 30, 2020.

In 2018 he earned up to $500,000, in 2019 up to $550,000 and this year it stood somewhere between $570,000 and $580,000.

An airport media spokeswoman explained the increase for 2020 had come from one-off adjustments that included pay for annual leave not taken and a 2019 bonus paid in the first quarter of the financial year.

Mr Keel said he would not take his usual incentive bonus this year, amid staff reductions at the airport.

The report said international passengers movements direct in or out of Queenstown decreased by 11% to 583,219, compared with the previous financial year, and domestic travellers fell by 23%.

In June, when there were no longer Covid-19 restrictions for regional travel, 37,468 people used Queenstown Airport for domestic journeys.

This was significantly down on the same period last year, when 106,119 used the airport for domestic travel.

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