Airport litigation fears addressed

Legal action against the Queenstown Lakes District Council is not on Auckland International Airport Ltd’s (AIAL) agenda.

In response to Otago Daily Times questions yesterday, Auckland Airport spokesman and board member Mark Thomson said the company respected and valued its partnership with the council "and we have never contemplated taking any legal action against them".

The spectre of legal action was raised by Queenstown Lakes Mayor Jim Boult at a meeting on Tuesday when the council set out its expectations for the QAC’s statement of intent next month.

"I would not like us to be placed in a position where we are subject to legal challenge by the minority shareholder," he said during discussion about the wording of the council’s statement of expectation.

AIAL owns 24.99% of the Queenstown Airport Corporation (QAC) and the council 75.01%.

Wanaka Stakeholders Group chairman Michael Ross said Mr Boult’s comment was a sign of the "tail wagging the dog".

"Auckland International Airport is controlling things and certainly not the council," Mr Ross said.

Mr Boult responded yesterday, saying:

"That some have chosen to interpret my advice to surmise that Auckland International Airport is calling the shots is simply misleading nonsense.

"AIAL has never discussed or highlighted any intention to take legal action."

Mr Boult said AIAL was "fully supportive" of the council’s current "pause" to development at Wanaka and Queenstown Airports.

Explaining his warning about legal action, Mr Boult said he felt it important to remind councillors that "even as the majority shareholder, we are not alone in this decision-making process; and that locking the QAC into such a definitive position without agreeing it with the other shareholder could be open to legal challenge from them."

He described the council’s relationship with AIAL as "positive and productive".

Mr Thomson said AIAL was "very mindful" of concerns about regional growth and the role of air services.

"We fully support the council’s decision to lead this process, including engaging extensively with the community and all other stakeholders."

Mr Thomson did not address the criticism made by Mr Ross.

AIAL has one seat on the board of the QAC.

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