24 Aug 2018

Air New Zealand urged to rethink services to regions

5:45 am on 24 August 2018

Community and business leaders in regions abandoned by Air New Zealand say the airline's big profit means it should rethink how it runs its business.

Auckland Airport

Air New Zealand made a $390m profit in the year to June. Photo: 123RF

The company posted a $390 million full year profit yesterday, partly down to its strong growth across its regional airports.

Sir Noel Robinson spent millions developing Kāpiti Coast Airport and attracting Air New Zealand to fly there.

Sir Noel, who no longer owns the airport, said he spent about $10m upgrading the runway, closing to smaller planes so Air New Zealand could land.

In March the carrier gave the airport just a few weeks' notice that it was pulling the plug on Paraparaumu, which he said was a terrible way to behave.

"To do it with such short notice is in my mind incredibly arrogant and inexcusable."

At the time Air New Zealand said it was adjusting its domestic schedule to better match its aircraft seat capacity to areas of growing customer demand.

But Sir Noel said Kāpiti was expected to grow by a fifth in the next two decades. "Kāpiti has a target market of almost a 100,000 people."

Sir Noel said while he congratulated Air New Zealand on its profit, it had not been achieved in what he believed was the spirit of the airline, majority owned by taxpayers.

Former Far North District Council mayor Wayne Brown said at some point the carrier would make a loss and taxpayers regions would have to step in.

He said Air New Zealand had a monopoly on the regions so had operated in bad faith.

"Part of their mandate should be to serve New Zealand."

However, Far North mayor John Carter said his region had a positive relationship with the carrier which was working closely with the main airport in Kerikeri to get a useful service to the district.

In 2015 Air New Zealand stopped its operations to Kaitaia, as well as Westport and Whakatāne.

Whakatāne District mayor Tony Bonne said that it was a slap in the face when they pulled out.

He said Air Chathams was now servicing his area well but it is a feeder airline.

"We would like them to be more friendly towards the feeder airline and let's work with them rather than against them."

Air New Zealand could not call itself the national carrier anymore and it would not be welcome back to Whakatāne, Mr Bonne said.