9 Dec 2009

Hamilton airport fights Customs charge

4:49 pm on 9 December 2009

Hamilton International Airport says it's grossly unfair that Customs is trying to charge it for providing services that are free for other airports.

The argument centres around the definition of what is a new international airport.

Hamilton has had international status for 15 years apart for a few months earlier this year, after Air New Zealand withdrew its trans-Tasman service and before Pacific Blue entered the market.

This has led to Customs regarding Hamilton as a new international airport.

Any new international airports must cover all border service costs. Customs wants Hamilton to pay $450,000 per year.

Airport chief executive Chris Doak says Hamilton offered to pay the fair costs of re-establishing customs services, but was ignored. He says Hamilton is being singled out.

Mr Doak says he would have thought that the $60 million per year in regional benefit that the six flights by Pacific Blue to Brisbane and Sydney was worth something. But instead, Customs has taken a "cost focus" and "has not looked at the tourism benefit".

Customs says it's involved in business discussions with Hamilton Airport and it won't carry them out through the news media.