05 April 2017

Parikawa's Air Service

The distance between Clarence and Kaikoura has felt enormous since the November earthquake but a new flight path is helping link the communities. Air Kaikoura set up the service, flying between Kaikoura and Parikawa, on December 4 and it is proving incredibly popular, according to manager Murray Hamilton. "We have just bought a new three-seater aircraft to be put on that run," he said. "But we will be able to take 11 people once all our aircraft are up and running." The 15-minute flight is even easier than the previous 40-minute drive, and is the only way to connect both ends of the district, other than by boat. The North Canterbury Transport Infrastructure Recovery (NCTIR) alliance also see it as an essential service and will be supplying a 'terminal', or portacabin, and portaloo for travellers. Hamilton said he was also grateful to the Parikawa Trust which owns the land for allowing the use of the new "airport". Plans for signage could increase the use of the service, and Hamilton said he hoped to encourage tourists to get back into Kaikoura, perhaps meeting a shuttle from Blenheim. Other plans included looking into having a car for people to rent at Parikawa. "It would be great if we could get a dealership involved so we could leave a car there and people could use it to get up to Blenheim." Air Kaikoura had been consistently busy since the earthquake, Hamilton said, but this was predominantly with tourists. The new service was important as it helped the northern end of the district to feel connected with their own community, and was particularly busy on a Monday and Friday with people getting to Kaikoura to work for the week. "It's really important that they feel more connected to the Kaikoura community. "It's been great for our relationships with the local community from a club perspective...we have even had more people wanting to learn to fly." As an incorporated society the club was always looking for potential members, Hamilton said.

The location of Parikawa airfield north of Clarence
Air Kaikoura's Piper Cherokee 6 ZK-DOP at Kaikoura on 27 December 2014
Piper Cherokee 180 ZK-DUQ at Kaikoura on 23 February 2017
In addition to these two aircraft Cessna 172 ZK-JCT was added to the fleet in February 2017.

While State Highway 1 north of Kaikōura and south of Clarence is being repaired, a local air club is helping the community stay connected. Around 500 locals have flown between Kaikōura and Parikawa since Air Kaikoura launched the new service in early December. Air Kaikōura Manager Murray Hamilton says Kaikōura Aero Club is a non-profit organisation run by members of the community. ‘We’re providing a lifeline for people to get between Clarence and Kaikōura.’ Clients have included hospital staff, insurance companies and even 20 people heading from Clarence to Christchurch for the Bruce Springsteen concert last month. Beekeepers are major clients, flying two to three times a week to check on hives. Mr Hamilton says the small airport is particularly busy Mondays and Fridays running at least four flights on these days. Other days flights are on demand, which is convenient for the locals. ‘We’re thrilled to be able to provide this service to support Kaikōura,’ says Mr Hamilton. NCTIR has helped by installing a ‘terminal’ and portaloo for travellers to use at Parikawa. Air Kaikōura is known for its whale watching flights, and while these are still continuing, the flights between Parikawa and Kaikōura are growing in demand. Farmers have relied on the service to transport machinery, while the vet has used it to get crucial medical supplies in for their animals. The company is growing, they’ve increased staff numbers  And have purchased a fourth aircraft for the Parikawa service. Flying the route means the locals are seeing the damage from the air first hand. ‘I was shocked the first time I saw the slips, completely blown away, thinking oh my goodness that’s just incredible,’ says Mr Hamilton. Air Kaikōura is also hoping to expand its service to connect Blenheim, locals and tourists with Kaikōura. This is due to launch before winter.

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