Airport consultation uniformly criticised

If there was one point candidates at a meeting in Wanaka agreed on last night, it was that the Queenstown Airport Corporation (QAC) had done a poor job of consulting over its proposal to develop Wanaka Airport.

Deputy mayor Calum MacLeod suggested the QAC's consultation would one day be used at universities as an example of how not to do things.

The usually restrained chairman of the Wanaka Community Board, Quentin Smith, described the consultation as "appalling" and council candidate Niamh Shaw described it as "a shambles".

Of the six candidates for the three Wanaka ward seats on the Queenstown Lakes District Council, none spoke favourably of the QAC's consultation.

And council candidate Lincoln Haworth raised a laugh from the crowd of about 250 when he told of how he had joined the QAC's website consultation "portal" in November last year and had received one email since then.

The meeting was organised by the Wanaka Stakeholders Group, which is opposed to Wanaka Airport being developed for commercial jet aircraft, and it was heavily weighted towards the airport issue.

A candidate for both the council and the board, Barry Bruce took up the matter of council staff setting the agenda for the board and failing to include the airport.

Former deputy mayor Lyal Cocks said when he was chairman of the board, he was able to put anything he liked on the agenda. He called for the community board's role to be strengthened.

And board candidate Barbara East, a former council employee, said bypassing the board "means you are bypassing the Wanaka community".

She also took issue with the six board candidates being given only 10 minutes in total to speak at the meeting. She was eventually cut off by MC Duncan Good after exceeding her 90 seconds.

When asked to give a yes or no answer on whether they supported development of Wanaka Airport, four were firmly against - Cherilyn Walthew, Mr Howarth, Niamh Shaw and Mr Smith - while Mr MacLeod, who lives under the airport flight path, said he was neither for nor against, and Mr Bruce said he would be happy travelling from Wanaka to Christchurch in a non-jet aircraft, but would prefer a little more legroom on a flight to Auckland.

While delivering his view on growth, Mr MacLeod asked the audience how many were born in Wanaka.

Ten hands went up.

"We are the problem; we've all come here because we love the place."

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