A New Plymouth City Ward election candidate says Air New Zealand and the government are to blame for holding New Plymouth Airport’s future back.
Jetstar Taranaki advocate and council candidate Michael Riley met with New Plymouth Mayor Andrew Judd on Wednesday to discuss the airport upgrade, runway extensions and Jetstar to New Plymouth campaign.
Riley said the meeting could only be described as dull for the airports future, pointing blame at the government and national carrier Air New Zealand
“It was an effective meeting which ultimately had the Mayor really thinking about the large support base out there, however at the end of the day we have the same chances as anyone else,” Riley said.
New Plymouth Airport is being upgraded and Judd admitted that this would not hinder the chances of the airline coming to Taranaki, however Riley points the finger directly at Air New Zealand and the government for a lack of prosperity at the airport.
“We have a problem here. Firstly, the government own half of the airport, and they’re holding important and vital changes back. For example the upgrade process has taken many months longer than it should have because they didn’t want to sign it off,” Riley said.
“Secondly, Air New Zealand seem to run the show, with the Mayor confident that the airport would most likely never become an international airport in the future, which was after a meeting with Air New Zealand where I suspect they sternly said no to further development,”
Riley believes that the airport needs to cut its government ties, and refuse to let the operation be dictated.
“New Plymouth is one of the only airports around the country that have a partnership deal with the government. It’s a significant hindrance on future upgrade,”
“It’s clear New Plymouth Airport is purely being used for economical purposes. Air New Zealand makes a quick dollar from their services and ultimately you can say they run New Plymouth Airport.”
“It’s of major concern,” he said.
Insiders New Zealand understands New Plymouth Airport upgrades begin later this year after a long battle with the government to sign off the proposal, with runway extension dates set for 2017.
In July 2014 New Plymouth Mayor Andrew Judd plead to the government to surrender it’s stake in the airport so the council could hold full control.
Mayor Andrew Judd told Radio NZ the terminal is under immense pressure. He said the transport hub needs $11 million in upgrades, but the Government has been unwilling to contribute.
“It’s a matter of allowing us to progress that airport, as it needs to grow. Our partner, the Crown, is reluctant to put money in to help us do that, so it’s better that they be out of the way because we’re having to work around them allowing us to invest anything,” he said.
“We need their permission … to do it, so extending car parks, car parking, they can veto all of that.”
Airport manager Kevin Hill said in his eight years there, it has gone from being the 14th busiest in New Zealand to the 8th busiest and an upgrade is seriously needed.