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Wanaka group questions Mayor's sudden change in numbers

Wanaka Stakeholders Group Inc. has questioned Mayor Boult's "sudden change" in numbers surrounding the airport, after the release yesterday of a financial analysis of the proposed $400m investment.

Mayor Boult is quoted as saying that the report contains a "fundamental mistake", and said that "the $400 million spend is not all on the airport itself. The cost of creating a regional (but jet capable – if that is what is built) airport is less than half this amount."

But Michael Ross, Chair of the Wanaka Stakeholders Group has called these comments out, saying that the Mayor is "playing fast and loose with the facts."

Mr Ross says that the size of the intended investment in redeveloping Wanaka Airport has been stated in meetings and reported widely in the media since late April as being $300-$400 million, and that this was clearly footnoted in the report. "QAC CEO Colin Keel first confirmed this twice, in two separate meetings, on April 29th this year," said Mr Ross. "He made it clear that this amount would be needed for the new 1900m long runway, the international standard 240m safety perimeter to the runway, the terminal and roading/infrastructure. I was present in that meeting with other WSG members who took detailed notes, and Mr Keel also repeated the figure in a meeting with the Wanaka Airport Users Group following our meeting."

"QAC have indeed been planning a $400m spend on making Wanaka Airport jet capable, and it is therefore completely disingenuous of the Mayor to now suddenly dress this down as a $200m spend, plus more over time, following our report which highlights the likely scale of their airport plans."

Mr Ross said that the Mayor's comments are clearly "a knee jerk reaction to seeing a report he didn't like the look of just before the election," and that this is "a complete contradiction of previous statements made by QAC, which is owned 75.01% by QLDC." He said that this shows the misinformation and lack of transparency flowing from QAC and QLDC, and stated that the people of the Upper Clutha and Queenstown "deserve much better than this".

Wanaka Stakeholders Group has confirmed that it will be asking further questions relating to the planned spend, including requesting that the detailed business case, lending criteria and ramp-up period details for this project be fully released to the public, for review, discussion and consultation.

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