Departure tax takes off

MONEY IN POCKET: Shawnee Marcroft was glad to save $5 to fly out of Palmerston North yesterday.
MONEY IN POCKET: Shawnee Marcroft was glad to save $5 to fly out of Palmerston North yesterday.

There were exclamations of delight from travellers at the Palmerston North Airport when they were told to put away their $5 notes and board their planes without paying the controversial departure levy.

For the first time in 22 years, people leaving the city by plane yesterday didn’t have to fumble about for loose change.

‘‘Oh, thank God for that,’’ Debbie Marcroft said when she was told the news by Air New Zealand staff.

Her daughter Shawnee was about to board a flight to Auckland and Mrs Marcroft had even gone to an ATM to withdraw cash.

‘‘I live in Palmerston North, both my kids live in Auckland. I fly them backwards and forwards all the time in the school holidays.’’

Those frequent trips and her own travel meant Mrs Marcroft estimated her annual contribution to the airport coffers was more than $100.

‘‘It’s not a lot of money but it doesn’t seem fair based on the basic airport this is,’’ she said.

‘‘When I came down here I was quite shocked that it even existed.’’

However, it’s not all good news for passengers, with Air NZ confirming all fares to and from the city had been raised $3 from yesterday – although most people spoken to by the Manawatu Standard said that was more convenient than before.

Whanganui man Dave Hill, who was seeing a young relative off to Auckland,  thought scrapping the levy was long overdue.

‘‘It always created a sour or bitter departure from Palmerston North.’’

Also boarding a plane to Auckland was Destination Manawatu chief executive Lance Bickford.

‘‘I think it’s good that it’s gone. It’s a source of irritation.’’

Despite that, the airport was ‘‘pretty blimmin’ nice’’ compared with other provincial ones.

Airport chief Darin Cusack said yesterday was just another day at the office.

‘‘I think everyone’s moved on.’’

He was unsure how much money had been collected through the levy, but his predecessor Garry Goodman said late last year it had netted $11.9 million.

Hamilton and Rotorua airports still charge a $5 departure tax.

Manawatu Standard