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Wanaka community group files for judicial review

Wanaka Stakeholders Group Inc. has announced today that it has filed judicial review proceedings in the High Court.

The group, now representing over 3,000 members of the Wanaka and Upper Clutha communities, has asked the High Court to review decisions made by Queenstown Lakes District Council to transfer substantial ownership and control of Wanaka Airport to Queenstown Airport Corporation, on the grounds that those decisions were both unlawful and unreasonable. QAC is also a respondent in the judicial review proceedings having regard to its role in acquiring the airport and the “lease”, and the adjoining land.

WSG Chair, Michael Ross, said today that the contents of the lease of Wanaka Airport to QAC, which was only disclosed to the community by the Mayor during the last days of the election campaign, are “disturbing”.

“The only responsible step we can now take having seen the content of the lease is to proceed with legal action. The “lease” is, to all intents and purposes, a sale to QAC, with QAC having the right to build and operate a substantial jet-capable airport, and QAC clearly intends to do just that. The lease even gives up elements of control to QAC in respect of the future development of Wanaka’s sewerage treatment plant, Project Pure, another strategic asset of the community.”

"An intention to transfer such substantial ownership and control, and QAC’s intention to build such a jet capable airport were never disclosed to the community during the so-called “consultation” and in the related Statement of Proposal back in 2016 – 2017. The Wanaka and Upper Clutha communities have never been properly consulted by the Council prior to the disposal to QAC of the community’s 100% publicly owned strategic asset. The future development and location of Project Pure was certainly never mentioned.”

"What has happened is all the more concerning because QAC is not 100% owned by QLDC but partly owned, and its business direction and profit-making incentives are driven in material respects by Auckland International Airport Ltd, which holds 24.99% of shares in QAC. QAC’s directors are all professional directors with strong financial and commercial experience. None are community representatives. The majority are Auckland resident."

Mr Ross said that promises of “consultation” after the event by QAC or QLDC are irrelevant to the lack of original compliance with the prohibitions and consultation obligations of QLDC and QAC under the Local Government Act, and such recent promises of consultation are wholly inadequate to retrieve the situation."

“It’s time to challenge QLDC's processes and QAC's effective acquisition of Wanaka Airport. It’s time to ensure that we get proper, lawful and fully informed community consultation. This should happen before anything is done by QLDC to give up full ownership and control of Wanaka Airport. What has been unlawfully done should first be undone.”

“It is regrettable that we have to take this step. However, it is also totally necessary in the circumstances, particularly in the light of the lack of any satisfactory responses from both QLDC and QAC to WSG and other community groups over the past year.”

“Our court documents were filed in the High Court's Invercargill registry as we were required to do. The media will be able to obtain copies of the Statement of Claim from the Court by following the usual processes. This is a matter of vital public interest, and for its part WSG welcomes full and informed understanding of the issues which WSG has now put before the High Court for its review."

© Scoop Media

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