Airport and developer resume battle

Last updated 05:00 18/03/2014
Alastair Porter
Remarkables Park director Alastair Porter.

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A legal battle between Queenstown Airport and Remarkables Park developer Alastair Porter resumed yesterday in the Environment Court.

Land south of the airport known as Lot 6 was subject to a notice of requirement by the airport and labelled as nationally significant by the Environment Minister in early 2011.

The bid sparked litigation, direct referral to the Environment Court, hearings in the High Court and meetings by the Queenstown Lakes District Council, the majority airport shareholder.

The airport says the land is the only suitable area for an expansion of the aerodrome and, if acquired, plans to use it for general aviation such as tourism companies, scenic flights and heliski operators.

However, Remarkables Park, run by Mr Porter, opposed the notice of requirement, saying there was already suitable land available to the north of the aerodrome.

Land to the north was acquired by Queenstown Airport Corporation in a good-faith land swap deal with Remarkables Park in the mid-1990s.

Remarkables Park lawyer Royden Somerville, QC, told the court the 15-year-old land exchange contract and deeds established arrangements for negotiations and dispute mechanisms.

Under a legal mechanism at its disposal, the court was able to find that the current proceedings could be stopped based on previous conduct, Dr Somerville said.

He said Remarkables Park could expect the airport to explore alternatives to the earmarked land and asked the court to consider legitimate expectations of such an agreement and arguments surrounding the scarcity of available industrial land in Frankton flats.

"It has never been agreed that Lot 6 could be designated as part of the airport. There's no reason to look at private land."

Porter, giving evidence, told the court Remarkables Park always acted in good faith with the airport concerning land.

The Lot 6 land was subject to an agreement that its use was recreational and it was effectively a "buffer zone" to protect against noise from the airport.

Queenstown Airport and Remarkables Park have had a close working relationship for many years but Lot 6 has become a hurdle neither has managed to overcome.

The hearing continues today in the Environment Court before Environment Court Judge Jane Borthwick and commissioners.

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- The Southland Times

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