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The search for consultants to carry out social and economic assessments on the effects of expanding Queenstown and Wanaka Airports has begun, according to Queenstown Lakes District Council chief executive Mike Theelen.
In a statement yesterday, Mr Theelen said a "request for proposals'' (RFP) had been published on the Government electronic tender service system.
Mr Theelen said as the majority stakeholder in the Queenstown Airport Corporation (QAC), the council was keen to ensure its strategic direction to the QAC board was well informed.
The council wants consultants to recommend approaches for the assessments "of a number of possible futures for the airport''.
"These include growth in Wanaka Airport and/or Queenstown Airport, constraining growth at both or either location, and increased collaboration with other regional airports,'' Mr Theelen said.
The Queenstown-based Flightpath 2050 group has called for an investigation into shifting Queenstown Airport - ruled out of the assessments by Mayor Jim Boult - and the Wanaka Stakeholders Group wanted to have input into the terms of reference for the assessments.
Mr Theelen said there would be "some who will now scrutinise the RFP to find fault or predetermination''.
"The RFP was deliberately neutral and simple in its approach to enable the experts to shape the right proposal.
"Frankly, the voice we now want to hear is from independent professionals in this space as to how best we should approach this work.''
Mr Theelen said the council was aware of the "economic value propositions'' of airport development and also of the "growing effect of airport traffic on social licence, particularly through recent heightened debate based on incomplete and inaccurate information''.
The council was aware of the "many different perspectives'' on possible development, which was why it wanted to ensure that any community engagement was "well-informed, balanced, and captured a wide range of community views and opinions''.
The assessments are to be ready for the council's March 2020 meeting, when it again considers the statement of intent that sets the QAC's direction.