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'Shell-shocked': Airport's 750 per cent rent increase 'extortion'

Author
Otago Daily Times,
Publish Date
Sun, 3 Apr 2022, 11:13am
Queenstown Earthworks owner Craig Harpur. Photo / Philip Chandler
Queenstown Earthworks owner Craig Harpur. Photo / Philip Chandler

'Shell-shocked': Airport's 750 per cent rent increase 'extortion'

Author
Otago Daily Times,
Publish Date
Sun, 3 Apr 2022, 11:13am

A "shell-shocked" Queenstown contractor is accusing the airport corporation of "extortion" for proposing a 750 per cent rent increase. 

Queenstown Earthworks owner Craig Harpur currently pays Queenstown Airport Corporation (QAC) $20,000 a year, plus GST, to rent a yard off Hawthorne Dr. 

But QAC is now proposing he stump up almost $170,000 a year, plus GST, for a "bare ground licence". 

"If that's not extortion, I don't know what is," Harpur said. 

"They're just screwing us." 

He said he could not afford the increase "in Covid times", and would be forced to quit his space. 

Even if the proposed hike – due to take effect from yesterday – was half that much, it would be "absolutely ridiculous". 

QAC, however, said it was benchmarking lease rates "to ensure they are competitive and reflective of the market". 

Finance and commercial general manager Andrew Williamson said the corporation had only recently "initiated discussion" with Harpur and would be "more than happy to consider any feedback". 

It was also ensuring "all tenants pay for space they occupy", he said. 

Harpur accepted his rent was "cheap", but stressed it was bare land. 

While he could perhaps sustain a "small increase", he believed QAC should be promoting business at present, "rather than suppressing it". 

Harpur sub-leased some of his 2610sqm space to two other businesses, but claimed he paid more than his share and the proposed increase would force him out. 

"We have nowhere to go, there's not one option. 

"It's actually devastating stuff, what to do. 

"We're literally on the street because we can't afford $170,000 a year just to park trucks and stuff. 

"We've got no choice, unless they come to the party – and they are saying they're going to negotiate." 

Harpur said people accused contractors of "being greedy" and charging too much, but, in this case, he said his landlord would be to blame. 

"Realistically, what would it matter if the airport, a multibillion-dollar industry [majority-owned by Queenstown's council], actually told us we could have that yard for nothing until things got back to normal times, would it actually make any difference at all?" 

Despite Harpur's concerns, however, QAC chief executive Glen Sowry was recently reported saying the corporation provided tenants with more than $10.5million in rent relief since the pandemic began. 

- Philip Chandler, ODT 

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