Barbs exchanged over Hamilton airport proposal
Would you fly international from Hamilton Airport if the option was available?
Hamilton mayor Julie Hardaker has dismissed proposals for the city's airport floated by her mayoral rivals, describing them as electioneering and "nothing new".
Ewan Wilson and Dave Macpherson have called for a shake-up of the airport's shareholding, including the possible sale of a majority stake.
Mr Wilson went a step further, pledging to extend the airport's runway without any cost to ratepayers and introduce flights to Asia, or quit politics.
Ms Hardaker said there has been a history of international airline failures at Hamilton Airport, including one Mr Wilson was involved in.
"We've heard it all before, it's nothing new," she said.
"If it was that easy to attract and keep an international airline why hasn't Mr Wilson managed to do that in the past?
"There has been nothing stopping him."
International flights from the city ended in October.
"The reason Pacific Blue withdrew its flights was because not enough people used them, it's that simple - it's a numbers game," Ms Hardaker said.
She said selling the city's shares in the airport has "always been an option" and she supported freeing up shares for an investor.
However, she said the proposed extension to the runway was a $22 million to $25m investment and no business case has been prepared.
"A ‘build it and they will come' mentality would be wrong. The runway extension could only happen if there was demand from an international carrier and there would have to an attractive ownership model to ensure an international carrier was committed to stay," she said.
"The airport is a strategic asset for the region and very important. But it's not the golden goose.
"All regional airports in New Zealand face challenges attracting overseas airlines."
Ms Hardaker's remarks reflected her "lack of expertise" in the sector, Mr Wilson said.
"My plan is to add direct freight and passenger services from Hamilton to Asia, not the trans-Tasman flights that are serviced well from Auckland," he said.
"The reason these failed before is they were never able to offer beyond-Australia destinations, a key element in a sustainable airport plan."
- © Fairfax NZ News
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