Wellington Scoop

Where’s the long-haul airline?

by Lindsay Shelton
There’s less than a month remaining for the Wellington City Council to deliver one of the key planks of its economic blueprint. Announced a year ago, the blueprint says the council intends to introduce long-haul flights from Wellington to Asia by 2013. But there hasn’t yet been any announcement of a new airline deciding to come here.

And at the airport there’s no sign of preparations for handling extra passengers from long-haul flights, though the airport company said earlier this month it was “chasing hard” to find a foreign airline which would start a new service direct from Wellington to Asia.

The city council announced its economic blueprint last December, including the airline deadline. It repeated the announcement in June, again stating its intention to have long-haul flights from the airport by next year. Councillor Jo Coughlan, the Council’s Economic Portfolio Leader, said it was “particularly pleasing that Councillors have agreed to invest $200,000 annually to attract long-haul flights to Wellington.”

The council also said its blueprint will create “thousands of new jobs.” But as well as being silent about its long-haul ambitions, it’s also kept quiet on whether or not the employment part of its strategy is succeeding. There have however been reports of job losses, the latest from Te Papa, in spite of the annual financial support which it gets from the council. There’ve even been job losses at the council. And everyone seems to know public servants whose jobs have gone. Confusingly, however, there’ve been reports that job advertising has increased. Can the council take any credit for this? We don’t know, because after announcing its economic aims, the council has said no more.

It’s time for the council to report on the effectiveness of its economic blueprint. And also: it’s time for it to be reminded that the clock is ticking on the deadline which it set for direct flights to Asia from Wellington Airport. 28 days, to be precise.


  1. Nora, 3. December 2012, 10:57

    Your article is timely, as just last week there was an advertisement in the Dompost for three positions in the council under the heading “People and Capability Appointments” and description as follows:-
    Development & People Consultancy Manager,
    Remuneration & Reporting Manager,
    Organisational Development Consultants,
    all with very interesting descriptions.
    “To be successful you will have the energy, drive and resilience to make things happen in a complex and changing environment. You will be solution focussed with the acumen to work closely with the organisation’s leaders to ensure that the people and capability strategies are cohesively implemented”
    What a load of waffle!
    Another advertisement of interest was for Road Corridor Maintenance Contracts 2013-2016, with 17 bullet points for various maintenance, cleaning contracts etc. Hope we in the suburbs don’t have to wait until next year to get our grass verges, banks etc cut and leaves swept, as so many areas have not been mowed, trimmed or cut for many months and “hay fever” is rampant…

  2. David, 11. December 2012, 13:10

    Wellington will find it hard to secure a long-haul air carrier. Brutal economics make it so. Wellington region alone has a smaller catchment area than Christchurch [which could not keep AirAsiaX] with even less industrial or export production to make cargo loads attractive either. Long haul airlines like Emirates fly to Christchurch only so they can cheaply poach Trans-Tasman travellers [without advertising NZ in OZ or vice versa] and because it’s cheaper to keep the plane on the ground in NZ and refuel and restrock here compared to OZ. Wellington has a compromised runway in length and ability to carry economic passenger and cargo payloads. The best Wellington can hope for is to maintain services with Australia and maybe get a new low cost carrier to Brisbane, Sydney or Melbourne. Auckland and Christchurch alone are more than sufficient for Pacific medium haul services and Asian long haul flights to meet outbound NZ demand and incoming tourism demand. It’s all pie in the sky with the local councils gifting funds to the Infratil bottom line. Ask NZ Tourism if Wellington is a long haul Asian carrier is on their horizon. I suppose Honolulu is an option, but it would run a poor second to Christchurch as gateway to the South Island and its safety factors for flights coming that far. Tourism Wellington targets Australia as a priority over China, Japan or Korea so it would make more sense to improve air bridges with east coast Australia and add Adelaide. In the meantime, WCC needs to stop wasting ratepayers’ money on this dream as it simply won’t fly.

  3. Michael Gibson, 12. December 2012, 9:09

    I wonder if we suffer because of the loyalties which our Deputy Mayor, Cr Ian Mackinnon, has towards the Airport Company?
    Does it mean that he has to keep quiet ebout this sort of thing at the Council table?