Masterton-Auckland air link ready for take-off

WALT DICKSON
Last updated 11:09 06/08/2014

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The final boarding call for a resumption of the Masterton to Auckland link is expected to be made in the next few weeks.

Air Chathams is willing to fly the route but "improvements" needed to be made to the Masterton airstrip runway to make the service viable.

It is understood the airstrip needs to be extended by 70 metres at a cost of $150,000.

Air Chathams officials, along with a group of local investors, met with representatives from the three councils last week.

Masterton District Council chief executive Dr Pim Borren said he was hopeful his council would make a "commitment" this week, but the final contributions from each of the three Wairarapa districts wouldn't be determined until later in the month.

Borren said MDC is keen to work in partnership with Carterton and South Wairarapa District Councils as it sees the air service providing economic benefits for the whole region.

From their discussions with Air Chathams, MDC believed the proposal was a "viable and sustainable opportunity", Borren said.

Air Chathams managing director Craig Emeny said if the councils agreed to make a financial commitment to the runway improvements the service could be operational by September.

Air New Zealand terminated its Masterton-Auckland daily service in February claiming it was not profitable.

"What Air NZ did do is show that there is a certain level of traffic from Masterton to Auckland so we know on average around 13 to 14 people flew each way," Emeny said.

"We have some really good information there that if we follow that model it should be cost effective for the Metroliner to operate with about 11.5 people on average."

The Metroliner flies at 20,000 feet and will complete the journey in 66 minutes. The aircraft will also be available for charter flights taking groups from Wairarapa elsewhere in New Zealand or for bringing groups from around the country to Wairarapa.

Emeny said the airline did not stand to make lots and lots of money, so the local of investors keen to see the air service resumed were doing so for a "community good".

"We have a very strong sense of community ownership with our airline and unless you have that within this region it is going to be difficult to make it succeed because it is quite marginal.

"You just have to look at people who have come and gone, it is not a hugely profitable route," Emeny said. 

"But we are in the right place to make this happen because we already have an aircraft (Metroliner) and I am quite prepared to share that risk with the [Wairarapa] community."

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- Wairarapa News

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