No appeal from council on airport lease ruling

Wanaka Airport. Photo: ODT files
Wanaka Airport. Photo: ODT files
The Queenstown Lakes District Council will not appeal a High Court decision that deemed the 100-year Wanaka Airport lease to Queenstown Airport Corporation in 2018 unlawful.

The corporation will continue to manage Wanaka Airport services in the interim, to avoid disruption, while the council considers longer-term management options.

The council will also consider how best to consult about the airport in the future, but no timeframes have been set for this to occur.

Wanaka Stakeholders Group chairman Michael Ross welcomed the council’s decision not to appeal.

The High Court decided in April the airport lease should be set aside because the council had not followed proper consultation and transfer processes.

"From the outset, we have advocated that the priority is supporting and enabling existing aviation businesses at Wanaka Airport, and it’s good to hear that QLDC will now focus on that, and continuing to support the recently reintroduced turbo-prop service between Wanaka and Christchurch, which we also support," Mr Ross said.

"We, and no doubt the rest of the community, look forward to lawful consultation about any potential plans to develop Wanaka Airport further."

The council said in a media release yesterday there were limited grounds for testing the two matters upheld by the court in relation to lease length and transfer of control. The council accepted the court’s ruling that these aspects of consultation had fallen short and would address that in any future process.

Mayor Jim Boult said it was business as usual at the airport, and the focus was on minimal disruption and ensuring the safety of the 30-plus operators and 300 workers.

"Prior to the lease being implemented, the council held a Management Services Agreement with Queenstown Airport Corporation (QAC) to oversee the day-to-day running of the airport. It is critical to ensure the airport continues to operate safely and the seamless solution is to enter into an interim arrangement with QAC to continue managing the airport," he said.

The council was working through the financial implications of the decision, including any budget changes or disclosures required for the 2021-31 long-term plan.

Councillors wanted to discuss the future for the airport and consider how best to consult and hear all perspectives, Mr Boult said.

- By Marjorie Cook

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