Bay flyers 'skinned' councillor



Hastings district councillor Simon Nixon has accused Napier Mayor Barbara Arnott of having "her head in the sand" when it comes to monopoly supply at Hawke's Bay Airport.

Mr Nixon yesterday made a plea for councils to break the monopoly, and claimed the supply meant Hawke's Bay residents were allowing themselves to "be skinned".

"The only way around it is competition, but the airport say it is not their job to put in air services.

"Their job is to maximise profits," Mr Nixon said.

He said the solution was to give the airport a mandate to consider its economic role for the region.

"The main problem has been the mayor of Napier," he said.

Mr Nixon said the mayor was "throttling" Hawke's Bay with her attitude to change.

"She wants us to be the Art Deco capital but we will be living an Art Deco standard of living.

We spent $100 million on things like the Opera House, the museum, the National Aquarium, Splash Planet, with the justification that they will attract more visitors, but we are at the other end stopping people from coming.

"They say it would take $10 million to make the airport fully operational for international flights yet are spending twice that on a bloody museum they hope 100,000 [people} will visit, yet there are already 400,000 who go through the airport."

Napier Mayor Barbara Arnott described the comments as "ridiculous" and she had canvassed "every alternative international carrier in terms of flights and none of them have been interested in flying to Hawke's Bay".

"You can't make people come in. If the opportunity did arise for another carrier the airport would clearly take that opportunity."

Yet others in the business community said relief from eye- watering air fares could be at hand, with Air New Zealand in talks to increase Hawke's Bay capacity. Air NZ was slashing fares on domestic trunk routes, with an extra 6000 seats a week coming into national market with new planes.

On Thursday, the airline met with the airport and council CEOs.

Hawke's Bay Airport's business development manager Wayne Wootton said the talks were at an early stage.

Regional economic agency Business Hawke's Bay board member Mike Purchas said the airport was a constraint to growth and had asked that the shareholders, Napier City Council and Hastings District Council, take a greater leadership role in relaxing the Statement of Corporate Intent allowing the airport to make decisions that were more in the interests of the region, he said.

He said routes had opened up in places such as Palmerston North, Rotorua and Hamilton only because of "a concerted leadership effort from the local councils".

Air commuter and Labour Napier spokesman Stuart Nash said some days it can be cheaper to fly to Fiji and air fares had to fall to ensure the success of the airport's business park development.

Xero director Rod Drury said airfares were a barrier "to tourism and getting smart people to relocate".

Mr Drury said he was a fan of Air New Zealand "but you definitely feel you are being ripped off living in the provinces".

- Hawkes Bay Today

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