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What’s happened to the long-haul flights?

by Lindsay Shelton
The Wellington City Council has failed to deliver one of the key planks of its economic blueprint. Announced more than a year ago, the blueprint says the council intends to introduce long-haul flights from Wellington to Asia by 2013. But the new year has arrived, and the flights haven’t started.

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

The city council announced its economic blueprint in December 2011, [1] including the airline deadline. It repeated the announcement last June [2], again stating its intention to have long-haul flights from the airport by 2013. 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.”

Last month we emailed her asking for an update on the long-haul flights and the deadline set by the council for them to start. Cr Coughlan did not reply.

She has also been silent on the economic blueprint’s strategy to create “thousands of new jobs.” Does this have more credibility than the long-haul ambitions? Though the council isn’t providing any information on employment, there have however been reports of job losses, the latest from Te Papa [3], in spite of the annual financial support which it gets from the council. There’ve even been job losses at the council. [4] And everyone seems to know public servants whose jobs have gone. Confusingly, there’s also been a report that job advertising has increased. [5] Can the council take any credit for the advertising? 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 it’s also time for the council to explain why direct flights to Asia from Wellington Airport didn’t start yesterday, as its economic blueprint promised.