Airport's goals domestic
International flights scrappedNARELLE HENSON
Business leaders say a decision to halt the search for international passenger flights into Hamilton will hurt tourism, but had to be done.
Last week the recently appointed board of directors, headed by John Spencer, announced the airport's 2014 Statement of Intent, outlining goals and objectives over the next three years.
It scrapped any idea of seeking international passenger services, a bone of contention at the airport for years.
Instead, the company would focus on repaying debt and providing a competitive domestic airport.
Hamilton and Waikato Tourism chief executive Kiri Goulter said the directors were focusing on what they thought was important.
"It's obviously a commercial decision made by them."
She said the proximity to Auckland meant Waikato still picked up visitor nights and spending from those heading down through the country.
"We've been operating for the last two years without international services. In terms of international visitors and international spend we have continued to grow."
However, she said her job would be a little easier with an international carrier bringing tourists straight to the region.
She said her organisation would support any decision by the airport to seek international carriers again.
Waikato Chamber of Commerce chief executive Sandra Perry said she understood the decision. "There are other priorities that might be more important right now.
"It's got to be about the timing being right."
Perry said it was unfortunate from a tourism perspective, but realistically Waikato could not compete with Auckland.
The Statement of Intent outlines development goals at the airport over the next three years. The board recommended a focus on domestic services, including a feasibility study into making the airport a domestic freight hub.
Debt repayment is also a major focus, with Spencer saying the current $10.7 million debt needed to be paid off.
The $650,000 apron and taxiway resealing works planned for last year would go ahead in 2015.
"Other spending" will have $740,000 exit the coffers next year, $630,000 the year after and $505,000 in 2017.
International flights began in 1994 when Kiwi International operated charter flights for just over a year. Freedom Air International offered trans-Tasman flights from 1995 to 2009 when the service was closed down after being taken over by Air New Zealand.
Pacific Blue took over the international carrier reins until 2012, closing down its Australian and Asian flights in the same year.
- Waikato Times