Claim council preparing for airport project

The group opposed to the development of Wanaka Airport for commercial jets believes the airport’s majority owner, the Queenstown Lakes District Council, has begun clearing the way for the project.

The council has longstanding plans to expand its Project Pure wastewater treatment plant near the western end of the airport runway.

However, Wanaka Stakeholders Group deputy chairman Mark Sinclair said yesterday the council had agreed to spend an "extra" $2.7million relocating the proposed expansion on to the side of Project Pure furthest from the runway.

Mr Sinclair said the information was "buried" in the 2020-21 annual plan but details came to light this month in an independent report by Queenstown chartered accountant Bruce Robertson, who carried out a code of conduct inquiry into the actions of Cr Niki Gladding.

Mr Sinclair said the inquiry showed the amount of $2.7million was "over and above the actual costs of the much needed additional wastewater processing capacity at Project Pure".

In the report from his inquiry, Mr Robertson said that in January the forecast cost of the Project Pure expansion rose from $5.9million to $12.4million.

"Part of the increase was a potential relocation of the SBR [sequencing batch reactor] tank associated with the wastewater plant.

"The move was an option in the business case and was forecast to cost about $2.7million."

Mr Robertson noted council chief executive Mike Theelen said in an email to Cr Gladding the options on relocation and cost were "responding to future proof our airport".

As reported previously, the code of conduct inquiry arose from Cr Gladding leaking information about Project Pure costs.

Mr Robertson said her concerns were that the information should be in front of the public.

The council’s code of conduct committee recommended a "mentor" be appointed to "guide" Cr Gladding.

Asked to comment yesterday, a council spokesman declined, saying the issues raised by the Wanaka Stakeholders Group were under judicial review.

mark.price@odt.co.nz

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