Wellington Scoop

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, including the airline deadline. It repeated the announcement last June, 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, 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, there’s also been a report that job advertising has increased. 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.


  1. Kakap, 2. January 2013, 16:40

    Cllr Ian Mackinnon has been too busy pushing the airport’s case for a flyover to be able to concentrate on the Council’s economic blueprint. If he is still a director of the airport company isn’t there a conflict of interests in this?

  2. Dave, 4. January 2013, 11:42

    The economics just don’t stack up.
    No business freight of any substance within 250km of Wellington to balance the low passenger numbers because central NZ is barely promoted by Tourism NZ..
    Passenger catchment for outbound is too low when there are 45min connections to Auckland and 30 min connections to Christchurch where about 90% of international flights land and depart.
    Runway too short for payloads needed to make long haul flights economic. It’s not the planes can’t land here, it’s just they need to be lighter [thus carrying less freight and bums] to meet safety issues.
    Achievable would be connecting flights to Australian hubs [Brisbane/Cairns in particular] for onward services to Manila, Kuala Lumpur, Hong Kong and Singapore] and new direct flights to Adelaide, possibly Perth.
    So you have to target airlines like Philippines, Cathay, Malaysian, Singapore etc and make a business case for them to extend their Queensland based flights across the Tasman where they’re up against Air NZ and the new Qantas/Emirates alliance.
    Forget about the rest.
    Although a fast and cheap option is for Wellington to announce that the new code shares with Qantas/Emirates via Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne effectively do add Singapore, Bangkok and even Dubai as destinations linked to Wellington.
    Smoke and mirrors though.
    The funds were, in my opinion, simply a gift to Infratil, owners of the airport. and WCC councillors involved with WIAL should, also in my opinion cease to be paid for those services.
    All in all, a silly part of the blueprint.

  3. Trish, 4. January 2013, 13:36

    There is “no business freight of any substance within 250km of Wellington” because we don’t have a decent airport. Build it and they will come – or at least that is what I have read in some development plan. At least if we leave it to market forces no-one should get hurt. Apart from the $300m of taxpayers’ money that NZTA plan to spend on a bridge and tunnel to handle airport traffic.

    I am more worried about the port. Most dairy products from Taranaki south now go out through New Plymouth and Napier. with the big shipping services wanting all their cargo railed to Tauranga. Apart from logs and second hand cars, what else is there that anyone would chose to ship in or out through Wellington? The Port company, 100% owned by local authorities, has been keeping itself afloat by developing office buildings on harbour land, but that bubble has come to an end.

  4. Dave, 4. January 2013, 19:30

    Wellington Port has no bulk freight future. It’s madness to move stuff down here through a physical bottleneck and clog up rail and roads. The shipping future is simple: encourage greater frequency and choice of passenger/tourism shipping to Picton and Marlborough; develop economic passenge/tourismand high value freight [fresh fruit, fish etc] services with Nelson and Napier; develop a fast passenger/tourism link with Lyttelton/Christchurch; help rebuild a modern and efficient coastal freight service linking Wellington with Nelson, New Plymouth, Napier, Tauranga and Christchurch – effectively becoming the maritime hub for central NZ; build a stronger harbor passenger ferry/tourism network to reduce pressure on roads and rail from Hutt; do more to encourage and support private boating/yachting/tourism around the harbor; and encourage maritime supply, design, repair and maintenance businesses to bring life to the bland office parks and boringly dead hospitality venues around the docks. Become a real port. Not a half baked part port and part land speculator and developer. Perhaps Maori iwi could partner some of these maritime projects and support new businesses and careers instead of investing in dull towers for duller public servants.

  5. dilan, 16. January 2013, 19:00

    What about that plan to build an airport in Featherston?

  6. Richard MacLean, 22. January 2013, 10:37

    Re the long-haul strategy and the fact that a long-haul airline has not been signed up. I think most reasonable people would understand that, given the global economy and a host of other issues, 2013 is an aspirational date.