The promised social and economic impact assessments for the proposed Wānaka Airport are underway but local groups are concerned that the whole process is broken.
Last week, various community groups in Queenstown and Wānaka started receiving emails from Queenstown Lakes District Council’s chosen consultants, MartinJenkins. The consultants advised that QLDC would be sending invites to focus groups, and that spaces were limited. Those invitations have now been sent, with each group receiving only one invitation, regardless of the size of the group, for one specific focus group session, with only a week’s notice.
Four Upper Clutha community associations (representing a population of 3,500 residents), the staff of Mount Aspiring College, Grey Power, We Love Wakatipu and Wānaka Stakeholders Group (WSG) are all understood to have each received one invitation each for their group.
The microscopic list of participants is concerning. Thorough stakeholder and beneficiary analysis (SA) is an entry point to Social Impact Assessments (SIA) and participatory work. A good SIA addresses strategic questions, e.g. who are the key stakeholders, what are their interests in the project or policy, what are the power differentials between them, what relative influence do they have on the operation? Whose opinions matter but are hard to reach and how do we reach them?
But so far, the general population of Wānaka, who are the primary stakeholders and beneficiaries of the airport have not been approached for any form of consultation. There are no public meetings planned, or online surveys or any other tool which an impact assessment consultant could use to reach all corners of the population. As it stands, only people who belong to current lobby groups or interest groups get a say, and only with one invite by MartinJenkins.
QLDC shared MartinJenkins’ methodology with the Wānaka Sun late yesterday afternoon stating it will, “Identify the positive and negative economic and social impacts associated with Queenstown Airports, through: client discussions, literature review and focus group discussions.” A broad-based participatory approach was not mentioned.
More alarmingly, the four scenarios MartinJenkins is analysing are: 1) No change in noise boundaries at Queenstown Airport, 2) Change in noise boundaries at Queenstown Airport
3) Dual airports with scheduled flights from Wānaka and 4) New International Airport. (Italics ours).