Ngai Tahu Silenced Critical Tenants at Wigram

, posted: 2-Sep-2008 14:19

[Article appeared in local newspaper "Western News", retyped for your edification, wouldn't usually reproduce an article in it's entirity but this is from a community paper so I doubt they will mind too much.]

Full facts on airfield not heard, Wigram candidate claims.

By Cullen Smith

National Party candidate for Wigram Marc Alexander claims a gagging clause in Ngai Tahu tenancy agreements has prevented the city council hearin gthe full story on possible aviation initiatives for Wigram airfield.

The council this week accepted a petition of more than 4000 signatures from people opposed to the airfield's planned closure in February to make way for 2000 new houses.

But councillors then voted unaminously to approve a plan change that allows an 84ha portion of the 250ha airfield owne by Ngai Tahu Property Ltd to be subdivided for housing development.

Ngai Tahu Property served notice to all commerical tenants last month that the airfield would close on February 28.  It will be closed to all air traffic from next month.

Mr Alexander, a former United Future MP who is standing against the incumbent Progressive Party leader Jim Anderton in the upcoming general election, presented the petition that was formally accepted by councillors on Thursday.

Mr Alexnder said petitioners urged councillors to defer approval for any plan to subdivide Wigram Airfield for housing until all interested parties had been fully consulted and briefed.

He told Western News he believed the council "got it wrong" by approving the plan change without hearing all the facts.

Under a clause in the Ngai Tahu tenancy agreement, Wigram tenants were forbidden to oppose any town planning or resource management submission made by thier landlord.

Mr Alexander said Mayor Bob Parker had reiterated to councillors that it was completely acceptable for landlords to impose such conditions.

"While that's true legally, the point has to be made that by doing so it denies the council getting more information before making an important decision," he said.

The council had been told in submissions that aviation had no future at Wigram and there were no commercial possibilities for the airfield.

"That was clearly misrepresenting the truth because the pilot school wanted to expand byt were unable to do so because Ngai Tahu basically curtailed their activities," he said.

He said he'd been told a gliding company had wanted to "set up shop" at the airfield but had been specifically prohibited.

"Ngai Tahu have every right to do those things, but to withhold that information and to give a false declaration as to the aviation possibilities at Wigram, I think was wrong."

Mr Alexander said he believbed there were some areas of Wigram that could be developed for housing without encroaching onm the possibility of retaining an airfield.

He said councillors should be "extremely sensitive" about the issue of retaining strategic assets for the city in light of the current controversy raging around the council's $17 million purchase of five inner city properties from beleaguered developer David Henderson.

"Retaining Wigram as an airfield is much more in the strategic long term interests of Christchurch than those buildings would be," he said.

[Article Ends]

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Comment by barf, on 3-Sep-2008 12:51

The council sold it for development, it's pretty clear who is responsible!

Author's note by sleemanj, on 3-Sep-2008 16:24

I won't put it up out of consideration for the confidentiality of the tenant, but I have sighted today the relevant clauses in an active Wigram Tenancy agreement and it does indeed restrict the tenants right to oppose such plan submissions.

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James Sleeman
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