'Not appropriate' for mayors to discuss Tarras airport plan - Dalziel

Lianne Dalziel. Photo: File
Lianne Dalziel. Photo: File
Christchurch Mayor Lianne Dalziel has told Queenstown's mayor it is "not appropriate" and potentially in breach of the law for them to discuss matters surrounding the plan to establish an airport in Central Otago.

Christchurch International Airport Ltd, of which the Christchurch City Council is a majority shareholder, is planning to construct an airport in the small farming settlement of Tarras.

Last month, Queenstown Lakes District Mayor Jim Boult sent a letter to Dalziel which expressed his disappointment about the plan and asked Dalziel for her views on the matter.

Dalziel's response to the letter last week led to Boult seeking legal advice. He refused to reveal why and declined to reveal the nature of the discussion.

Dalziel also said it was not appropriate for her to comment on Boult seeking legal advice and would not discuss the contents of her reply to Boult’s letter.

However, Dalziel's letter, obtained by The Star through the Local Government Official Information and Meetings Act, shows she told Boult it was not appropriate for the two of them to be discussing the matter.

"Your letter put me on notice about our respective obligations and I have taken advice to make sure that we stay on appropriate ground.

"The advice that I have received is that you and I should approach all communications on this subject on the basis that we are associated with competitors.

"Accordingly, it is not appropriate for us to engage and discuss this matter as doing so could give rise to a breach of the Commerce Act 1986.

"I look forward to working with you on the other matters of importance to our respective communities," the letter reads.

Both Dalziel and Boult again declined to comment on the situation.

Boult has also sent a separate letter on the planned airport to Queenstown Airport Board chairwoman Adrienne Young-Cooper.

He labelled the plan a “predatory activity” designed to attack the value of Queenstown Airport, which the district council is a majority shareholder of.

Jim Boult.
Jim Boult.
He also said the proposed new airport was an “unwelcome intrusion into our district.”

Boult, who was Christchurch International Airport Ltd’s chief executive from 2009 to 2013, said it was “quite surprising” to learn of Christchurch Airport’s plans, about an hour before they were publicly announced in July.

“The greater surprise, though, is that a 75 per cent owned subsidiary of another council would choose to compete with another 75 per cent owned subsidiary of our council.

“I’m not sure that territorial authorities have that as one of their things to do; to compete with each other in a commercial sense.

“Effectively, that is what’s happening here.”

Christchurch International Airport Ltd has so far spent $45 million to buy 750ha of farmland which will be used to home the planned airport.

The plan has not be without opposition from the community.

Sustainable Tarras has argued the airport will bring air, noise and light pollution to the district. Representatives from the group voiced their opposition to the plan to city councillors during Thursday's finance and performance committee meeting.

Alongside them were representatives of Extinction Rebellion which also opposed it.