28 Apr 2020

Return of flights to Queenstown 'will give businesses some oxygen' – MP

7:09 am on 28 April 2020

Queenstown businesses are on their knees and need a financial lifeline of an airline service into the town, a local MP says.

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Queenstown Airport. Photo: 123RF

Clutha-Southland MP Hamish Walker has launched a petition to get Air New Zealand to return flight services to Queenstown.

In the aftermath of the Covid-19 alert level 4 lockdown Air New Zealand slashed its domestic routes, removing Queenstown completely from its schedule.

The tourist destination has been left decimated with no indication when either international or domestic routes will return bringing with them much needed tourism revenue.

Walker said the past five weeks had left the town devastated.

"It is heartbreaking and gut-wrenching. A lot of businesses have lost over 90 percent of their revenue. We've had many businesses who have already failed and we'll see many more fail over the next few weeks."

Hamish Walker, National candidate for Clutha/Southland speaks to residents in Winton.

Clutha-Southland MP Hamish Walker. Photo: RNZ / Rebekah Parsons-King

He said while some businesses may reopen today the point of difference for Queenstown was that 70 percent of visitors to the town were from overseas.

"It is not until the domestic tourists start travelling again that we'll get any sort of lifeline into Queenstown.''

Walker has launched a petition to lobby the government and Air NZ to get some flight services into Queenstown.

"Even one or two will make a huge difference and will mean that people who live here can do business around the country.

"Most importantly once we get down to level 1 or 2 we'll get that return of a domestic tourism market."

He said even if two jets were flying into Queenstown by June, it would make a huge difference "but most importantly it will give businesses some oxygen".

"A basic air service will make a huge difference right now while we're on our knees."

Walker said he knew of businesses that had already told workers that at the end of the wage subsidy, they would be out of jobs.

He said there would be a huge wave of unemployment at the end of the 12 weeks when the wage subsidy ends.

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