Toko­roa Air­field de­bate drones on

South Waikato News - - Your Local News - LUKE KIRKEBY

A war of words has bro­ken out over drone ad­vo­cate Bruce Simp­son’s con­tin­ued push to see the Toko­roa Air­field delisted.

Simp­son spoke dur­ing the South Waikato Dis­trict Coun­cil’s open pub­lic fo­rum on Thurs­day and got into a heated ex­change with coun­cil­lor Gray Bald­win who ques­tioned his cred­i­bil­ity.

The pre­sen­ta­tion be­gan with Simp­son talk­ing about his de­sire to lease the air­field for three months over summer for a ‘‘string of events’’. He claimed one would con­trib­ute $105,000 to­wards the lo­cal econ­omy.

But in order to do so he wants the air­field delisted to re­move the sub­stan­tial cost of ob­tain­ing Civil Avi­a­tion Au­thor­ity cer­ti­fi­ca­tion for drone op­er­a­tors.

‘‘If 300 peo­ple come to this event and they all spend $50 a day and they are here for seven days, that’s $105,000 go­ing into the lo­cal econ­omy,’’ he said.

‘‘These peo­ple are com­ing from Aus­tralia, the USA, Canada, UK, Ire­land and in­clude peo­ple from NASA and some big names from within the drone in­dus­try which is a great op­por­tu­nity to in­tro­duce our town to peo­ple within these in­dus­tries,’’ he said.

Simp­son said he was a ‘‘lead­ing fig­ure­head in the drone com­mu­nity’’ and hoped the coun­cil would give some weight to what he was claim­ing.

‘‘No one in the coun­cil has ever given me one rea­son why delist­ing the air­field would be a neg­a­tive thing. I chal­lenge some­one to do that,’’ he said.

At that coun­cil­lor Bald­win let loose.

‘‘Mr Simp­son I do not be­lieve one sin­gle iota of any of your statis­tics about Face­book and all of that other stuff,’’ he said.

‘‘You come to coun­cil with in­tim­i­dat­ing be­hav­iour. My ques­tion is are you pre­pared to pro­vide the coun­cil with the data­base of all your al­leged friends who want to use our air­field and fur­ther­more are you pre­pared to put money where your mouth is and place a de­cent de­posit of at least a six fig­ure sum in order for us to be con­fi­dent that the num­bers are there?’’

Simp­son was taken aback by the out­burst.

‘‘I have dis­cussed it with the coun­cil but ev­ery time I bring money to the table the peo­ple who of­fer it are called liars. This is un­rea­son­able,’’ he said.

Com­mu­ni­ca­tions man­ager Kerry Fabrie said the coun­cil has pro­vided Simp­son on nu­mer­ous oc­ca­sions with rea­son­ing for not delist­ing.

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