Shareholders fly with domestic market plan

JAMIE SMALL
Last updated 05:00 07/07/2014

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The board of directors of Hamilton International Airport company released a statement of intent last month, saying that it will no longer actively pursue international passenger carriers.

The airport is jointly owned by five councils.

Hamilton City Council owns 50 per cent. Waipa, Waikato, and Matamata-Piako district councils each own 15.6 per cent, and Otorohanga District Council owns just over three per cent.

Representatives from all five councils said they were happy with the direction the new board - appointed early this year - was taking.

"I think that we are a good domestic airport and I think that's where they're putting their focus," Jan Barnes, mayor of Matamata-Piako District, said.

Sean Murray, Hamilton City Council's general manager of events and economic development, described the approach as pragmatic.

"They're not shutting the door on international service opportunities should they arise," he said. "We sort of felt a bit refreshed by that approach."

The statement of intent indicated the company did not intend to pay a dividend for the next three years.

And again, the shareholders are unanimously content with that decision.

They said the airport should make money, but the main point of its existence is to provide infrastructure and services for the Waikato.

Waipa District Council chief executive Garry Dyet said the airport was important for economic development.

"Waipa is a strong supporter of Hamilton-Waikato tourism so anything we can do to encourage people to quite literally land in our district is a good thing.

"Waipa has some internationally significant facilities in terms of the Avantidrome and the high performance sport centres at Karapiro. The fact that tourists and athletes can fly in, and land in the Waipa district close to key facilities and close to attractions like Maungatautari, is useful."

The airport has no private shareholders, and there are no immediate plans to bring in any.

But some councils said they would be open to the idea of bringing in a shareholder like Infratil, which owns 66 per cent of Wellington International Airport.

"That's always a possibility and that's always something to consider. But that's not on the agenda for now," Murray said.

"We're certainly supporting the board on taking the business to a position where it is attractive to another party."

Hamilton International Airport chief executive George Clark said the airport was not losing money, and generates enough cash to pay its own way.

"Whether we make a small profit or a small loss, cash-wise we are in a reasonably good space."

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He said he measures the airport's performance on increasing opportunities to the local region, and that a private investor "would want to know that they can get a return".

"A five-to-10 year investor isn't going to get required return anywhere in New Zealand other than Auckland or Wellington."

Clark said a long-term private investor might see more value in the company.

He said the councils get non-financial value out of the airport as well.

"If we weren't here, would the people of Otorohanga be really pleased with having to drive all the way to Auckland for an airport?"

HAMILTON AIRPORT

Destinations: Auckland, Wellington Christchurch, Palmerston North Most popular destinations: Wellington and Christchurch Commercial carrier: Air New Zealand Commercial aircraft: Bombardier Q300, ATR 72, Beech 1900D Flights in and out: 80 per week Passengers through the airport: 295,000 per year, an average of 800 per day 

- Waikato Times

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