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Community group concernced about planned airport

The Wanaka community group leading opposition against a planned jet airport has raised serious concerns about the impact assessments the local council has commissioned.

Wanaka Stakeholders Group Inc. has written to the firm commissioned by Queenstown Lakes District Council outlining nine core areas of concern.

In a five page letter sent to consulting firm MartinJenkins, WSG outlined their deep reservations about the two impact assessment reports commissioned by QLDC and has cited a process defined by 'secrecy and little or no communication' which is 'rushed, biased and most likely predetermined'.

Other factors include insuficient focus on the environment, lack of transparency and the likely impact of a judicial review due to reach the High Court around mid-year.

WSG chair Michael Ross says that the impact assessments and consultation process appears to be seriously defective.

"This work was announced by the Mayor six months ago and is due to be delivered to Council next month.

"It appears that consultation is fatally flawed, very secretive and will not produce a true and objective result. While the consultants have been talking to big tourism businesses for some time, it is only now at the 11th hour that community groups are being included, and it looks like it's a cursary box-ticking excercise.

"As a membership organisation with nearly 3300 members – equivalent to nearly half the adults in our town – who are deeply concerned with how QLDC is handing this, we have been given place for just one person at a two hour focus group next Monday," he says.

"This is patently ridiculous. These are complex issues requiring very careful consideration and discussion, but it appears that Council isn't interested in listening to the community, or giving this very complex and serious set of issues the consideration they deserve."

The group is participating on a "without prejudice" basis, and filed for judicial review in the High Court late last year, with the hearing due to take place sometime soon after June.

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