7 Nov 2020

Direct flights between Tasmania, NZ from 2021 - Scott Morrison

6:20 pm on 7 November 2020

Flights between Tasmania and New Zealand could resume as early as next year under a new deal to be announced by Australia's prime minister today.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison.

Australia's Prime Minister Scott Morrison is keen for New Zealanders to explore Tasmania. Photo: AFP

Scott Morrison, in Tasmania for the Liberal Party's annual conference, will unveil plans for 130 direct flights between Hobart and New Zealand per year.

That's equal to three flights per week in warmer months, and two flights per week in winter.

It is not clear whether an international carrier will pursue the route.

The Australian Border Force and Australian Federal Police will have to be stationed at the Hobart International Airport to allow for the flights - but it appears that will happen on a fly-in, fly-out basis.

"While keeping our borders secure, the extra 30 officers flying in and out means more investment for local businesses," said Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton.

The plan will cost the federal government $A50 million ($NZ53m) - already accounted for under the Hobart City Deal - while the state government will chip in $A10 million for infrastructure upgrades.

Hobart Airport management had requested $15 million from the state government for accommodation for Border Force staff and upgrades to the departure gate and baggage handling facilities.

"This has been an incredibly tough year for Australians, and particularly our tourism and hospitality sectors, but the deal will mean tourists from low-risk areas can come to sample Tasmania's incredible experiences, sights and produce," Morrison said.

More quarantine space

The Australian and Tasmanian governments have also agreed to provide an additional 450 spaces in quarantine facilities in Hobart hotels to help more Australians return home from abroad.

Morrison said the additional capacity was on top of the 6315 weekly quarantine spaces currently agreed to by states and territories.

"We're working every option to help as many Australians return home as quickly as possible," the prime minister said.

The New Zealand flights, expected to begin January next year and with a review scheduled within 12 months, will be the first between Tasmania and New Zealand in more than 20 years.

The route was canned by Air New Zealand in 1996 and has been since discussed but not pursued due to questions about its viability.

Regional Tourism Minister Jonathon Duniam said the resumption of the route would give Tasmania "a chance to prove that one island is better than two".

"This is the shot in the arm Tasmania's tourism operators desperately need as they start rebuilding an industry that is stronger than it ever was before," he said.

A cityscape of Hobart, Tasmania, Australia

Hobart in Tasmania. Photo: 123RF

Documents released by Hobart Airport to MPs earlier this year estimated international flights into Tasmania's capital would increase tourism spending by up to $A120m per year - but that was before coronavirus hit.

Direct route a 'marvellous' opportunity

Christian Bell used to travel frequently between Tasmania and New Zealand for work when the international flights were last available between the two islands.

Although the direct route has been dormant for decades, he believes there would be a quick uptake for the flights.

"Twenty years ago, the flights were packed, and the population has grown in Tasmania," he said.

"Tasmania has become a much more attractive destination to come to, it would easily pay for itself."

Bell, who now runs a Facebook page dedicated to improving the relationship between the islands, said there were countless reasons for New Zealanders to cross the Tasman.

"There are similarities between the two islands but there are uniquely different things that make Tasmania different from New Zealand," he said.

"They would be absolutely infatuated with the marsupials we have in Tasmania and things like the Tasmanian Devil … we've got such an extensive range of fauna on the island.

"People are itching to get to Tasmania and people are itching to get to New Zealand, and a direct route would be absolutely marvellous."

Bell said there was one prominent New Zealand resident he hoped would make he trip across the ditch when flights become available.

"It would be good to have the first visit by a New Zealand prime minister to Tasmania, because a sitting New Zealand prime minister has never visited Tasmania," he said.

"We'd love to see Jacinda Ardern visit Tasmania."

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