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QLDC councillors asked to focus on modified post-COVID SOI

In direct response to COVID-19, Queenstown Lakes District Council elected members are being asked to agree the proposed Statement of Intent from Queenstown Airport Corporation at this Thursday’s Council meeting.

The recommended course of action will enable the airport company to direct its attention to respond to the immediate crisis and focus on developing a modified SOI for consideration later in the year.

This will enable the QAC’s future business strategy to accurately reflect the impacts of COVID-19 on the company’s operations and three-year planning horizon.

Under normal circumstances, the Councillors would be asked to receive a draft SOI that would then be agreed mid-year, says QLDC chief executive Mike Theelen.

"However, the Statement that has been prepared by QAC is a moment in time, written before Aotearoa New Zealand went into lockdown under alert level four. Although the SOI references COVID-19, it cannot fully reflect or anticipate what the operating impact of an extended period with no international or domestic travel means for the corporation," says Mike.

"These are unusual times and these are pragmatic recommendations that are being put to the Councillors for consideration. There is a legislative need for the QAC Board to adopt an SOI by the end of the financial year, and while the SOI is complete the future is shifting so rapidly that this SOI will require modification in the next six months; the local government act provides for that, and these are the very circumstances where that approach is appropriate.

"So what is being proposed to Councillors is a rational approach that meets legislative requirements and creates the space for QAC to undertake a comprehensive review of its business strategy and essentially rewrite it in a completely new environment. Our communities have debated in recent years what the boundaries of airport growth might look like; today we have no planes flying whatsoever, and while services will begin to return the future is likely to be quite different for a considerable period and the planning for that will need to be fully addressed in the modified SOI when it’s considered by its owners later this year."

The proposal being put to Councillors is to agree the current SOI immediately and, as majority shareholder with the support of minority shareholder Auckland International Airport Ltd, support QAC’s commitment in the SOI to begin work on a modified SOI to be delivered by the end of October 2020.

Mike added that the immediate focus for the QAC was the direct effects of COVID-19 on its own staff and those who work in the airport environments.

"As well as 70 of its own employees being directly affected, there are 900 employees across 80 businesses that exist at the district’s airports. All of these are members of our community and impacted by this current crisis, and need to be the QAC’s immediate priority."

The proposed new deadline for a modified Statement of Intent would also allow for due consideration of the MartinJenkins airport impact assessments and the QLDC draft Spatial Plan, both of which are being updated to reflect the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

In the meantime, QAC has confirmed it has ceased its capital investment programme other than critical works.

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