Group seeks judicial review of airport lease

Michael Ross
Michael Ross
The Wanaka Stakeholders Group has filed for a judicial review of what it says are ''unlawful'' decisions surrounding the future of the Wanaka Airport.

The judicial review proceedings were filed against the Queenstown Lakes District Council and Queenstown Airport Corporation (QAC) yesterday in the High Court.

The group wants the High Court to set aside the 100-year lease of the airport given by the council to the QAC. The decision was in breach of the Local Government Act and ''unlawful and unreasonable'', group chairman Michael Ross said.

Mr Ross said the group was not ''anti-growth, anti-tourism, anti-business or anti-development''.

But it did not want ''unmanaged growth which is driven by the agenda of an airport company simply maximising its returns by flooding the Upper Clutha and the Queenstown Lakes District with visitors. We do not want the same problems that other tourism hot spots around the world, including Queenstown, have had to endure''.

Mr Ross said the lease granted to the QAC was ''to all intents and purposes, a sale to QAC, with QAC having the right to build and operate a substantial jet-capable airport, and QAC clearly intends to do just that''.

Mr Ross said Upper Clutha residents had ''never been properly consulted'' by the council about the plans.

''What has happened is all the more concerning because QAC is not 100% owned by QLDC but partly owned, and its business direction and profit-making incentives are driven in material respects by Auckland International Airport Ltd, which holds 24.99% of shares in QAC. QAC's directors are all professional directors with strong financial and commercial experience. None are community representatives. The majority are Auckland residents.''

The stakeholders group claims 3000 members and the support of the Luggate, Mt Barker, Albert Town and Hawea community associations.

Mr Ross said it was ''regrettable'' the group had to request the judicial review and the group was happy to talk to the council and QAC before going to court ''to resolve this if we can''.

The group has not disclosed the expected cost of requesting the judicial review. But Mr Ross said it had a ''funding strategy'' in place, had already raised ''significant funds'' and had ''significant'' pro-bono contributions from its legal team.

Queenstown Lakes District Mayor Jim Boult and QAC general manager corporate and community affairs Sara Irvine declined to comment, as the issue was now before the courts.

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