The mayor bungyed off a bridge and a plane full of level 2 travellers has touched down at the local airport - Queenstown is open for business again.

The tourist-magnet has been among the hardest hit Kiwi towns after Covid-19 slammed the brakes on international and domestic tourism.

With New Zealand borders closed to all but citizens and residents, the door remains shut on international tourism.

But domestic tourism is back, with Queenstown's Airport today welcoming its first scheduled commercial jet flight in 45 days.


NZ1209 arrived from Auckland at 2.13pm and passengers on the Air New Zealand A320 were greeted with applause from Queenstown Lakes District mayor Jim Boult and Clutha-Southland MP Hamish Walker, and live music from local band LA Social.

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Documentary presenter Riley Elliott was among those on board, which included a mixture of returning residents and holidaymakers.

He was surprised and delighted by the reception, not realising the flight's arrival was something special.

"Well thank you Queenstown, that was a beautiful welcome," Elliott told media.

He and colleague Dave Abbott were on their way to Stewart Island to film for a Discovery Channel Shark Week show, to "highlight how awesome our wildlife is, in particular the great whites down there".

It felt "bloody great to get out of the big smoke and come spread some love in the deep south", he said.

Filmmaking boosted the economy, through accommodation, transport, catering and local employment, so it was good to be back working on location.

"It feels really good to go and support these small communities with projects that are by Kiwis for Kiwis, but also for the rest of the world."


Abbott saw opportunities if New Zealand, which moved to the less-restrictive level 2 after seven weeks in level 3 and 4 lockdown, was able to keep the country open for business.

"For us to be able to do a shoot down here, when the rest of the world's in lockdown is awesome.

"[Filmmaking] could have a really significant impact [on the economy], and not just for documentaries like we're doing. Big screen filmwork, if the rest of the world's shut down and we're a beautiful location … and we're able to operate, it could give us a real edge."

Another passenger, Harry Stocker, was returning to his studies in Queenstown and looking forward to being back with his peers.

"It was pretty normal on the flight, apart from the social distancing. I sat next to an old lady who was happy to be coming home."

Queenstown mayor Jim Boult makes a bungy jump from the Kawarau Bridge to mark the start of level 2. Photo / Supplied
Queenstown mayor Jim Boult makes a bungy jump from the Kawarau Bridge to mark the start of level 2. Photo / Supplied

Boult, who last month said the region had gone from the most successful to potentially one of the poorest, welcomed level 2 - and the return of domestic tourism - with a bungy jump into the Kawarau Gorge.

Today, he described the arrival of NZ1209, and the flights which will follow, as "the spark that gets the engine going".

"[This is] probably the happiest day I've had since this lockdown began … what we really, really want now is the transtasman bubble and we're looking forward to working with Government to make that happen, hopefully around the ski season ... in July."

Both Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and her Australian counterpart Scott Morrison have expressed a desire to open borders between New Zealand and Australia once it is safe to do so.

Ardern has damped down excitement about the move though, saying this week any transtasman travel agreement would not happen quickly and was more than "weeks" away.

Transtasman travel was "really achievable", Boult said.

"Both countries are making good progress in beating Covid-19. I wouldn't say we've beaten it, but gee I think we've got our foot firmly on its head." The Government's official Covid-19 advisory website