Parties at legal loggerheads over airport future

A social impact assessment for the Queenstown and Wanaka communities would be carried out to...
Photo: ODT files
Both sides in the row over possible redevelopment of Wanaka Airport argue that the other has acted unreasonably, court documents released to the Otago Daily Times show.

The Wanaka Stakeholders Group is seeking judicial review of decisions by the Queenstown Lakes District Council and the Queenstown Airport Corporation relating to possible expansion of services at the airport.

The QLDC is assessing the economic and social effects of redevelopment; among the options is the introduction of commercial passenger services to the township.

Court documents filed by both sides were released to the ODT this week.

The WSG’s statement of claim for judicial review of the council and the airport company’s actions asserts that both made decisions which were unlawful under the Local Government Act.

It also says both organisations acted unreasonably by failing to consult adequately about their plans, and the QLDC in its decision-making processes.

Wanaka Airport and the adjacent "Project Pure" wastewater treatment plant were strategic assets, as defined by the Local Government Act, which required conditions under the Act to be met before any decisions about them were taken, the WSG said.

"None of the decisions ... were explicitly provided for in QLDC’s long-term plan or subject to a proposal to provide such decisions included in a consultation document."

The council’s consultation had been inadequate to elicit and reflect the views of the community, the group said.

"QLDC exercised its decision-making functions for the purpose of the perceived need or desire of QAC to cater for and indeed attract projected increasing numbers of international tourists into the wider South Island region without any relevant consultation with other stakeholders, without any consideration of government policies regarding over-tourism, and without having any regard to the availability of other airports such as those at Dunedin, Invercargill and Christchurch."

The QLDC in turn said that if a council-controlled company was found to have failed to comply with its statement of intent, the Act said that did not affect the validity or enforceability of any deeds or agreements it had entered into.

The council also asked the court to dismiss the WSG’s application as the group had taken too long to bring legal action.

"Public consultation on the option of a long-term lease for Wanaka Airport began on October 8, 2016," the QLDC said.

"Following the special consultation process, QLDC resolved that the future governance and management of Wanaka Airport would be under a long-term lease on April 20, 2017; the lease was executed on March 8, 2018

"(WSG) did not file this proceeding until October 25, 2019."

In its statement, the QAC defended its consultation processes, said the WSG had sufficient time to formalise its opposition, and also said the group had acted unreasonably in delaying action.

The QAC said it had spent 18 months negotiating leases with users of the airport, and had invested in planning and community consultation.

In its reply to the statement of defence from both parties, the WSG said it had not unreasonably delayed bringing legal proceedings.

It said delays had been due to "persistent failures" by the council to publicly disclose and discuss its decisions, and by the council and airport company to respond to the group’s letters.

A case management conference has been scheduled for March 23.

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