12 November 2014
Westport Reaction to Air NZ Cuts
The Pike River disaster and the slide of Solid Energy are believed to have contributed to the axing of Air New Zealand flights to Westport. The airline's pulling out of the town - along with Kaitaia and Whakatane - from April. Buller District Mayor Garry Howard says the service which linked Westport to Wellington is crucial for the area. But he says the number of passengers on the route has declined since Solid Energy restructured.
Buller district mayor Garry Howard said the loss of the Air New Zealand service was disappointing, but was unable to comment further until later today as he was in meetings. Air New Zealand had offered two direct flights between Westport and Wellington on weekdays, and one flight each way on Sundays, through its Eagle Air service. Westport's closest airports were now at Hokitika - 140 kilometres south of Westport - or Nelson, which was 222km away. Others took to social media to express their disappointment. Michelle L wrote on Twitter that the loss of the Westport service was a "huge blow" to the town. "[Air NZ] drove a small airline out of business a few years ago, now they dumps us. SHAME ON THEM," she said. Steve said that his unlikely dream of flying to Westport "via Grabaseat on a whim" was now over. Bathurst Resources Ltd general manager Hamish Bohannan said the announcement was "disappointing, but it's a sign of the times". The company was ramping up work on its open cast coal mining operation on the Denniston Plateau, 25km north of Westport. Bohannan said most of Bathurst's employees lived in Westport and the loss of the service made it "harder to get out" of the town. "Our team are West Coasters. We've got a very small corporate office here in Wellington." The corporate team would now have to fly to Nelson and drive to the West Coast for meetings, but Bohannan said that was something he did "quite a bit anyway". Westport Motels manager Tania Lind said losing the passenger service at Westport Airport would not affect her business much as most visitors travelled by car. "Some people tend to come here and then fly out of Westport because this could be their last stop off before the North Island." Lind said the service was used more by locals, but it was too expensive for many people, with one way flights usually costing about $300. "It's cheaper for me to go to Nelson and fly to Wellington, even with the petrol."
Posted by Steve L at 10:14 AM