Friday, October 22, 2010

This stinks

Back in July, The Queenstown lakes District Council part-privatised their airport, selling a 24.99% stake to Auckland International Airport. The deal was stitched up in secret, without consultation. How secret? Well, they didn't even tell the council - their owners - until the deal was done:

The partial sale of Queenstown International Airport was kept secret because there was no time to consult the public, the airport's board decided.

Records of a Queenstown Airport board meeting on June 28 – released under the Official Information Act [sic] – show the board was concerned informing the Queenstown Lakes District Council would delay the sale for up to a year.

"Markets for QAC [Queenstown Airport] is strong right now; this may not be the case next year."

Delays associated with the possible election of a new district council was another reason given for keeping the deal under wraps, the records show.


Councillors, including Ms van Uden, were only told of the deal the day it was finalised. The only two elected members who were told in advance, and sworn to secrecy, were outgoing mayor Clive Geddes and deputy mayor John S Wilson, neither of whom sit on the new council.

This is utterly appalling. It suggests the airport company - a Council Controlled Organisation - was effectively allowed to part-privatise itself, with no input, oversight, or mandate from the council, and in questionable compliance with the consultation provisions of the Local Government Act. The latter has already resulted in a court challenge, which will be heard next year, and we should all hope it is successful. Because if it is not, this undemocratic behaviour will be legitimised, and councils (or worse, CCOs) will have a carte blanche for this sort of privatisation by stealth.