Thursday, April 30, 2009

New Zealand flights

Trans-Tasman flights from Newcastle Airport are again on the radar as the aviation industry waits for the Federal Government to classify flights between the two countries as domestic.

New Zealand is the second largest market for international visitors to NSW.

More than 360,500 New Zealand visitors spent 3.3 million nights in the state last year, injecting $369 million into the economy.

Hunter Business Chamber chief executive Peter Shinnick said Newcastle Airport was an ideal destination for direct flights between centres such as Auckland and Queenstown.

"If this eventuates it would be fantastic for Newcastle and the whole of the Hunter," Mr Shinnick said. "It will increase business into Newcastle Airport and that will mean more local jobs."

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd and his New Zealand counterpart have reportedly pledged to make the creation of a common border a priority.

The Government is considering the move as the next step in an open skies policy between the two countries.

Jetstar corporate director Simon Westaway said steps towards a trans-Tasman service out of Newcastle could begin when the Government made good on a promise for a "common border" between the countries within a year.

Newcastle Airport corporate spokesman David Nye said the Hunter would have access to international flights within three years regardless.

A development application is before Newcastle City Council for a terminal expansion to house customs and quarantine areas that, if approved, would take three years to be realised.

"Current health scares aside, international flights from Newcastle could be a reality within one to three years, common borders or not," Mr Nye said.

It was believed the move would result in cheaper airfares, boosting passenger numbers and economic activity on both sides of the Tasman. Issues such as quarantine and security were being looked at before a decision could be made on trialling the routes.

Previous attempts at a trans-Tasman route out of Newcastle included flights by Air New Zealand low-cost subsidiary Freedom Air.