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About 40 people rallied in the car park and waved placards at the councillors as they arrived for a full council meeting at the Lake Wanaka Centre.
Protest organiser Anna Simmonds said they wanted to send a clear message they did not want a jet-capable airport in Wanaka, and call for the council to "stop wasting ratepayers’ money" pursuing the idea.
"It is the wrong direction and makes no sense given we have just declared a climate and ecological emergency."
In the public forum, Wanaka Stakeholders Group deputy chairman Mark Sinclair told councillors the recent judicial review had found the council lease of Wanaka Airport to the Queenstown Airport Corporation was unlawful and the council must start to consult "openly and transparently" on any plans for Wanaka Airport.
"Councillors and QLDC executives, we are watching you, we will hold you to account and we will not go away," he said.
Before the meeting, Mayor Jim Boult told protesters there had never been an intention for an international airport at Wanaka.
"I am here to do what I can to put facilities across the entire district that the community wants and so I am listening to what is being said today," Mr Boult said.
He did not know if and when a future consultation process with the community on the future of Wanaka Airport would take place.
"It is not for me to decide; it is for council to decide," he said.