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Flight or fight: Does a promise to the community matter?

Flight or fight: Does a promise to the community matter?

Flight or fight: Does a promise to the community matter?

Tuesday 5 October, 2021

A local resident’s association recently appealed the “roll-over” of the Glenorchy Aerodrome designation during the review of the Queenstown Lakes District Plan. Queenstown Lakes District Council was the responsible requiring authority for the designation and as the aerodrome was a local purpose reserve, the Council also the administering body under the Reserves Act. The case highlights the interrelationship of the different legislative regimes of the Resource Management Act (RMA) and the Reserves Act (RA) when rolling over a designation in a proposed district plan. The case also demonstrates why local authorities must implement applicable statutory instruments when fulfilling multiple roles as a territorial and planning authority, requiring authority, and administering body. 


The Glenorchy Aerodrome designation rollover was appealed by Wyuna Preserve Residents Association Incorporated (WPRA), an association representing the owners of dwellings in an “exclusive lifestyle subdivision” that overlooked the Aerodrome. WPRA did not oppose the designation rollover outright but sought “more stringent control of use and development of the Aerodrome and its effects” as well as “better protection of their residential amenities.” WPRA also claimed that the designation roll-over should be consistent with the Glenorchy Airstrip Reserve Management Plan (RMP), which would restrict future growth for aircraft movements.

Which matters apply in the rollover of a designation (in addition to Schedule 1)?

Once a designation is given effect to, it remains until the requiring authority removes or alters the designation by using Part 8 of the RMA. A designation must also be rolled over into a new district plan under Schedule 1 in order to continue having effect.  This process provides for modifications to the designation which must be notified.

Usually, a designation and its effects will be strictly determined under the RMA. However, in this case, the Council made a specific direction in the RMP for the Aerodrome reserve so that the existing designation must align with the RMP within a certain time period. It was open to the Court whether to modify the designation to ensure alignment with the RMP. The Court decided it was appropriate to give significant weight to the RMP because of the Council’s intention to align the designation with the RMP. As such, local authorities should carefully consider any representations or objectives made under one statutory document which may have a consequence under another legislative regime.

This finding had repercussions for future growth of aircraft movements. Again, the Court found in favour of “community confidence” over the Council’s mitigation of adverse effects, based upon the representations made by the Council in the RMP. This resulted in modifications to the designation to prevent future growth of aviation activities. As the Court noted, an option for local authorities restrained in their capacity as requiring authorities is to make an alteration to the designation under Part 8. If a statutory instrument under another statute was limiting the alteration of a designation, then it would be appropriate to review the statutory instrument and alter the designation together.

On the remaining matters, most of WPRA’s appeal points could be addressed by modifications to the conditions of the designation. These conditions included the adoption of a Noise Management Plan, restricting hours of operation, modifying the purpose of the designation, and restraining growth until the RMP was reviewed.

Further thoughts

Many of the Court’s modifications to the designation were to ensure that it was appropriately aligned with the RMP. Had the Council not made representations to the Glenorchy community of preserving aircraft movements when adopting the RMP, then the modifications to the designation would have been assessed in accordance with the RMA and how the designation would promote the sustainable management purpose. In this case, the Council must complete its review of the RMP by engaging the community under the RA as an administering body, then either simultaneously, or shortly afterwards, alter its designation as a requiring authority.

This decision highlights how vital it is for local authorities to maintain objectivity, avoid conflicts and obtain legal advice when acting in multiple roles for the same land area or project.


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