7 May 2020

'It's fantastic': MP thrilled flights to Queenstown resuming

4:49 pm on 7 May 2020

With domestic travel returning under alert level 2 restrictions, it's "great news" that flights into Queenstown will resume, says the local MP.

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Local people and the economy need flights to resume to Queenstown, MP Hamish Walker says. Photo: 123RF

All flights into Queenstown were removed from Air NZ's schedule when alert level four began, but will resume under alert level 2 restrictions, Clutha-Southland MP Hamish Walker says.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern confirmed today that inter-regional travel will be allowed when the alert level drops, saying this would mean a lot to the tourism sector.

Walker has led the charge for flights to return to the hard-hit tourist town and presented a petition to the national carrier with signatures of 5500 locals.

He praised Air New Zealand for listening to the community.

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

Hamish Walker Photo: RNZ / Rebekah Parsons-King

"We have many people from throughout Southland and Otago who use the airport for various reasons," he said.

"This includes travelling for life-saving medical appointments, visiting family and friends throughout the country, commuting for work and thousands of migrants who need to get home.

"I have heard from many of these people who have told me their individual stories as to why flights in and out of Queenstown Airport are so vital to them.

"These flights will also go a long way in restarting our local economy and bringing people back to our region."

The services would not be commercially viable at the moment and with physical distancing required on board it showed the airline's commitment to the south, he said.

"They've indicated under level two it's going to be flights to Christchurch and Auckland. It's just fantastic we're not cut off and isolated at the moment and just getting some visitors back into our region is just so critical because it's been an incredibly tough six or seven weeks."

The flights were a lifeline not only to the area's residents, but also its economy.

"If Queenstown is to get through this Covid-19 pandemic we need visitors coming south, and these flights will enable this," he said.

"This is great news and a great step in the right direction in getting our economy back up and running."

An Air New Zealand spokesperson said its domestic schedule was still being developed and the airline would not comment on Walker's announcement or any other potential destinations it would return to under level 2 restrictions.

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