04 February 2016

Manapouri Airport Usage Growing

Te Anau airport is continuing to chalk up modest but consistent growth in both landings and passenger numbers. Airport manager Evan Pearce said growth had been achieved over each of the past four seasons and the airport was on target for another improvement this year. Tauck Tours continues to be a consistent source of aeroplane movements at the airport. During the high season this year, Tauck has been landing twice a week – sometimes three times – with each plane bringing around 40 people to visit Fiordland. Mr Pearce predicted the airport could see double the number of large aircraft movements in 2016 and this was particularly important because large aircraft provided the majority of the airport’s income. There were nine large aircraft landings for all of January 2015, while there had been 12 landings in January 2016.  Mr Pearce said that with infrastructure complete and the airport now able to receive a wide variety of aircraft, costs were stable and income was increasing. “We’re in a healthy situation,” he said.  However, both Mr Pearce and interviewed members of the Southland District Council emphasized better marketing as the key to increasing air traffic to the airport. Cr Ebel Kremer said the next step for the council lay in proper marketing for Te Anau’s growing tourism economy. “Strategically the council [needs] to have a look at how we market that air facility,” he said. Neither Mr Pearce nor the SDC could further comment on what those strategies might be. Council services and assets group manager Ian Marshall recognized that locals would like to see an airport that was eventually self-funding. While aircraft in the sky has been the most visible sign of the airport’s vitality, Mr Pearce said that the air-side part of business was operating beyond expectations. as a result, he now planned to focus his attention on developing the landside aspect of operations.  He said there was potential in developing more hangars and small aviation businesses, such as adventure aviation companies, that would like to make use of the airport’s attractive real estate. “At the end of the day, we’re doing what we possibly can to provide and entice more business and... pull back the money that’s been spent on the airport,” he said.  In recent years the new terminal building has found increasing favour as a function centre. Bronwyn Eason, a marriage celebrant living in Te Anau, said it was a wonderful place to perform weddings, especially as a rainy day alternative. Mr Pearce agreed. “It’s something that’s really taken off. Excuse the pun,” he said. But cr Kremer said using the airport as a function centre presented the community with a small catch-22. While the council welcomed its use for non-aviation purposes, Mr Kremer said care was needed over the airport’s use as a wedding facility so as to not be an unwanted source of competition with other venues in the region.

Source : Fiordland Advocate, 4 February 2016

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