Airport governance views to be aired

It appears not everyone agrees with  the Queenstown Lakes District Council  about  how  Wanaka Airport should be run.

A hearing about  Wanaka Airport’s governance options will be held at the Lake Wanaka Centre on February 13 at 10am.

A review carried out by the  council  late last year identified five options. The council’s preferred governance option is to enter into a long-term lease and management arrangement with the Queenstown Airport Corporation (QAC), which is a council-controlled trading organisation. According to the council, one of the advantages of the preferred option  would be receiving a regular income from the agreement as well as a 75.01% share of dividend payments.

Auckland Airport owns the remaining 24.99% of QAC.

The council owns the land on which the airport sits, airport-related infrastructure such as the runway,  and various buildings on the site. Day-to-day operations are now managed by  QAC under a management agreement with the council.

The council received 78 submission on the governance options and 30 people are scheduled to speak at the hearing.

About half of the submissions were in favour of the preferred option. Many cited the success of  Queenstown Airport as an example of why the council’s preferred option would work for Wanaka.

In its submission, QAC chief executive Colin Keel  said it would engage the Upper Clutha community to develop a long-term master plan for the airport. A long-term lease would  give it confidence  to invest in long-term infrastructure, he said. Concerns about the council’s preferred option were raised by the airport’s recreational users, existing businesses and organisations in Wanaka.

Southern Alps Air owner Paul Cooper said in his submission his scenic flight business had been based  at the airport for many years and he was concerned about what impact the QAC’s governance would have on the airport’s general aviation tenants.

He was also worried about what impact potential rent increases would have on his business.

In a submission from the Wanaka Chamber of Commerce, president Alistair King said the public and interested parties had not been given enough time and information to consider the different options in order for them to form an informed opinion.

The chamber believed the council should obtain expert advice then engage with interested parties before considering granting a long-term lease to  QAC.

Two recreational pilots and aircraft owners, Bruce and Peter Clulow, said in their submission they were not opposed to changing  the governance arrangements for  the airport but wanted to ensure the minimal needs of private users  would be taken into consideration.

Wanaka ratepayer Peter Marshall was concerned the airport would be used as a dumping ground for services QAC wanted to remove from Queenstown Airport to free up space  for more valuable services.

He also felt a decision was being rushed into with a lack of information on the outcome if the preferred option was chosen.

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