We now have 5 candidates contesting the Mayoral election this year, and four of them are gung-ho supporters of the corporate hand-out to fossil fuel giant, Infratil.

Why oh why does Infratil, which owns airports, energy companies, transport groups, property and hundreds of petrol stations with more than $2.5 billion in assets, still need handouts from the Wellington City Council? Why oh why are Justin Lester and Co promoting discredited numbers around this extension ad nauseum, yet refuse to insist on a proper business case by the airport? Why oh why did the Council hide the subsidies to attract Singapore Airlines to fly to Wellington (via Canberra), with Justin Lester trying to blame his leak on Helene Ritchie? Why oh why are they pushing for Wellington ratepayers to pay half of the cost of the runway extension, even though they will – at utmost, and only with unreal fantasy projections – only get a third of the economic gains? Why or why are they paying for half when they only own a third of the shares yet get just over 10% of the dividends? Why oh why are they calling critics of the airport extension to be “Anti-Wellington” and “Anti-Competition”? Why oh why is a former Green Party member who become Mayor suddenly turning her credibility into a pretzel by claiming that more long-haul flights will reduce emissions? Why oh why is the Council promoting a ‘low carbon plan’ yet fiddling with the actual aviation emission statistics which will make up more than 25% of Wellington’s emissions?

We think we know why: Because Infratil, the 66% owner of the Wellington Airport (WIAL), seems to have a very strong hold over many of these candidates. Here is Tim Brown, Chair of the WIAL board, waxing lyrically about Justin Lester in his campaign video. We all know that Celia is sitting on the WIAL Board of Directors and thus hugely conflicted when she insists on keeping up her promotion of the runway extension in public. And Jo Coughlan is cozying up to the Chinese to attract foreign investment for Infratil’s – and her Council’s – pet projects.

That leaves only Keith Johnson, one of the Guardians, who actually opposes ratepayers giving such corporate handouts to a multi-billion company and rejects pork barrel politics. He cheekily shows Justin Lester proudly wearing some of his corporate badges. It may not be a bad idea asking all of our Mayoral candidates to wear, literally, on their sleeves who their corporate supporters are and why they always seem to end up with ratepayer handouts to the tunes of millions of dollars.

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  1. Will a ban on begging include Infratil’s efforts to extort money from Wellington ratepayers?


  2. Editors note: Councillor Nicola Young has written to us to take exception to our allegation that she has done work for Infratil in the past. Even though we heard this allegation from a trusted source, we believe her assurances and have removed the link.

    She also took exception to being lumped in with the 5 Mayoral candidates that are ‘gung-ho’ about the extension and for corporate handouts, saying: “My stance on the airport extension is that the Council is a minority shareholder in the airport, so it doesn’t seem right that we’re being asked to carry the majority of the runway extension’s cost, and project risk. Infratil, a seasoned airport investor across the world, should fund two-thirds of the upfront cost, in line with its shareholding. I’m looking forward to reading the business case, but I am genuinely open-minded about the extension.”

    “Lastly, you state Keith Johnson is the only candidate who opposes
    ‘ratepayers giving such corporate handouts to multi-billion companies and rejects pork barrel politics’. He is not alone, as I’ve voted for greater
    transparency with the Council’s secret ‘Economic Incentives’ fund, and have opposed pouring over half a million dollars into privatising Martin Luckie Park for the Phoenix – a move backed by Labour councillors and the Mayor, which I (and the Green councillors) opposed. I am opposed to pork barrel politics.”

    We very much welcome Councillor Young’s opposition to pork barrel politics and corporate handouts but remain to yet be convinced by her past voting record and public statements around the runway extension that she is indeed opposed to it on these grounds.


    1. “Infratil, a seasoned airport investor across the world…..” Yeah Right! They had three airports in Europe and the UK, Glasgow Prestwick Airport, Manston Airport and Lübeck Airport and came severely unstuck on all of them. The reality is that Infratil operates successfully within WIAL with the support of the WCC in a monopoly environment (see: http://www.nbr.co.nz/article/wellington-airport-gouging-100m-service-charges-air-nz-wb-123875). Otherwise, it proved incapable of operating in a competitive international environment.


  3. I attended a function last year where Nicola Young made a public statement before 90 odd people that she supported the Runway Extension. Everyone is entitled to change their mind of course. It would be great if she would give her reasons though.


    1. Yes, Stan, there were several supportive comments for the extension made by Nicola in the public in the past, and she also voted for the inclusion of the $90m in the LTP. We would very much welcome if the facts have swayed her to think differently, but she’d need to send much clearer and stronger messages before she could be regarded as being against this corporate handout.


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