No appeal over Wanaka Airport court decision

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 was unlawful.

The High Court released its decision on April 21, delighting the Wanaka Stakeholders Group, which had requested a judicial review of the council's decision to grant the lease.

The council said in a media release today there were limited grounds for testing the two matters upheld by the court in relation to the length of lease and the transfer of control.

The council said it accepted the court’s ruling that these aspects of the consultation had fallen short of the requirements and would ensure these would be addressed in any future process.

It had considered its next steps and would not be pursuing any appeal.

Mayor Jim Boult said it was business as usual at Wanaka Airport.

“The focus for the council is on reassuring businesses operating from Wanaka Airport that the priority at this stage is to ensure there is minimal disruption or uncertainty. 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.”

QLDC General Manager Finance, Legal and Regulatory Stewart Burns said the council would now be working through the financial implications of the decision including any budget changes or disclosures required for the 2021-2031 Ten Year Plan.

Mr Boult said council would be asked to consider options for a longer-term Management Service Agreement, which he anticipated would come to the council in the coming months.

“There’s a lot of work to do right now to just keep the airport running safely for the 30 plus operators and the 300 people who work at or in support of Wanaka Airport. Councillors will now want to take time to discuss what the future looks like for Wanaka Airport and consider how we can best consult with the community to hear all perspectives.”

Mr Boult confirmed no timeframes had been discussed regarding future long-term options for air services in the Upper Clutha but confirmed the council would not be rushing into any long term planning or optioneering.

“Wanaka Airport has a well-functioning set of businesses and Sounds Air now provides a commercial level of service to Christchurch that seems well supported by locals; it is prudent to now allow those to continue to thrive.”

He acknowledged any potential future development of Wanaka Airport had divided some members of the Upper Clutha community. The council would be very mindful of ensuring robust consultation and reflecting the full range of views when considering any future planning, he said.

 - Marjorie Cook

 

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