“Stonewalled, shut out and disrespected” by Christchurch Airport

Read our media release, published Tuesday 13th September 2022 in response to Christchurch Airport’s refusal to answer questions about the proposed Central Otago Airport.

Media Release – Tuesday 13th September 2022

“Stonewalled, shut out and disrespected”: Christchurch Airport CEO’s refusal to answer community group’s genuine concerns

A community group which has been seeking answers from Christchurch Airport since November 2021 is horrified at the airport’s latest refusal to be open and transparent. Stop Central Otago Airport, a group with nearly 1,200 members from Christchurch, Central Otago and elsewhere in New Zealand, sent a list of 63 “reasonable and important” questions to CEO Malcolm Johns last month. Johns declined to respond, passing the letter to one of his subordinates: the airport company then officially refused to answer any of the questions.

SCOA spokesperson Zella Downing says that the refusal is “unbelievable”. “Our community is concerned, and it has become clear that Christchurch Airport doesn’t care. Some of us have been seeking answers since plans for the new airport at Tarras were first announced over two years ago. They have no intention of replying. They are even refusing to meet with the local group at Tarras. Meanwhile they are pushing ahead with planning for the new airport.”

Downing says that the airport company’s “stock standard” response is to refer them to the project website. “But it’s futile,” she says. “Their website gives us no detail, makes broad promises of a bright future, and doesn’t address the issues.”

“That’s why a year ago, we sent the airport 46 clear questions. They refused to answer. So again, a few weeks ago, we updated the list to 63 questions, and requested answers. Again they refused.” Downing says that the group is feeling stonewalled, shut out and disrespected.

Downing says that the group’s frustration is heightened by what she describes as “games” the airport is playing. “For example, in their most recent reply they say they have “attempted to answer” our questions previously. This is simply not true.” She says that Christchurch Airport executives also claim that the group’s questions are too detailed, and that it is too early in the process to provide answers. “Also not true – apart from a few more general questions, we have largely asked them very specific questions which we know they can answer now. They are just point blank refusing to. Meanwhile they are moving towards committing ratepayers, taxpayers and the country to a massive infrastructure investment we may not want.”

She continued: “The irony is that they talk about ‘gaining insights’ by talking to people locally. But they’re being hugely selective about who they talk to, and they certainly aren’t talking to any of the growing groups of people in Christchurch, Tarras or elsewhere in Central Otago who are concerned. We have an equal right to an open and two way flow of information. This feels like a PR hit job.”

Downing says that the group is considering next steps, as “the usual reasonable” channels of communication have been “slammed shut” by Malcolm Johns and his team.


Notes for media:

  • A full copy of the letter sent to Christchurch Airport is pasted below. Also here with a copy of the reply from Michael Singleton of Christchurch Airport.
  • For further information, quotes or interview with Stop Central Otago Airport, please reply to this email. Please note that we are a volunteer, grass roots organisation, so sometimes cannot meet tight media deadlines. If we cannot do an interview, we can usually provide answers to questions via email.