A new air service between Hawke's Bay and the prime South Island wine region of Marlborough is being considered by top-of-the-south provincial carrier Sounds Air.

The possibility of a new carrier to facilitate direct flights between Napier and Blenheim was revealed by Hawke's Bay Airport Co acting chairman Jim Scotland, in presenting the company's draft statement of intent to a meeting of the finance committee of major shareholder, the Napier City Council.

Mr Scotland, airport chief executive Nick Story and Sounds Air managing director Andrew Crawford were all unable to be contacted last night by Hawke's Bay Today for further comment.

But, asked whether the discussions were in the early stages or more formal, Napier Mayor Bill Dalton said: "I think it's between those two points."


He believes there is a demand for a service between Hawke's Bay and the Marlborough-Nelson region, and added: "They are two of the premier grape and wine regions of New Zealand."

Such a service "sits very well" with the regions, and would assist development and growth in both areas, he said.

Sounds Air, which has operated for more than 25 years and is regarded as a specialist Cook Strait flyer, has already made a significant move recently to pick-up a Westport service which is being dropped by Air New Zealand. It is starting that service on April 28, in partnering with Development West Coast in the financing of the company's second single-engined nine-seater Pilatus PC12.

The company has its own airport near Picton and also links Nelson, Wellington, Paraparaumu and Wanganui, its services being based mainly around four Cessna Caravan aircraft, each with a capacity of 13 passengers.

Hawke's Bay air services campaigner Simon Nixon also believes there is a demand for a Hawke's Bay-Marlborough service, which he said would be welcomed, particularly by wineries with staff flying regularly between the regions whose only option is the current two-sector Air New Zealand flights through Wellington.

A check last night showed the cheapest fare on the national airliner from Napier to Blenheim on Saturday and returning on Sunday was $629.

Earlier this week Hawke's Bay Airport annouced a $5 million terminal upgrade and a new name - Ahuriri Airport Hawke's Bay.