Whanganui mayor Hamish McDouall says money from the Provincial Growth Fund could help Whanganui Airport which the New Zealand Airport Association listed as "at risk".

Last week the Government announced it was considering extending a helping hand to cash-strapped airports, many of which it has a stake in.

Regional airports considered at risk included alongside Whanganui include, Kaitaia, Kerikeri, Whāngārei, Whakatāne, Taupō, Masterton, Westport, Hokitika and Timaru.

McDouall said the council was continuing to review both potential income opportunities and the reduction of expenses.


"The financial forecast for the current year has the airport running at an operating deficit of approximately $300,000, of which 50 per cent is Crown funded," he said.

"The Provincial Growth Fund could help us fund critical infrastructure upgrades such as taxiways, runways and terminals."

Whanganui mayor Hamish McDouall said regional airports are vital for aeromedical transfers and disaster response among other things. Photo / Bevan Conley
Whanganui mayor Hamish McDouall said regional airports are vital for aeromedical transfers and disaster response among other things. Photo / Bevan Conley

Whanganui Airport provides for passenger, commercial and recreational operations and is located eight kilometres from the city centre.

The passenger airport was opened in 1954 and for a time Air New Zealand ran services from it to Wellington and Taupō.

In 2016 Air New Zealand withdrew from its only remaining route out of Whanganui - to Auckland.

Air Chathams immediately started a service flying passengers from Whanganui to Auckland.

"Airports are essential infrastructure for communities and play a critical role in the provision of a comprehensive national transport network across the country," McDouall said.

"As well as serving scheduled passenger flights, regional airports are also vital for aeromedical transfers and disaster response."


In Whanganui, the airport is also the base of the New Zealand International Commercial Pilot Academy (NZICPA) which began in 2017.

As of June, the NZICPA was training 80 pilots from all around the world which was contributing $10 million to the economy annually.

Recently, the NZICPA was awarded a multi-year multi-million-dollar contract to train pilots under a cadet programme for India's IndiGo Airlines.

The New Zealand Airport Association said that unlike road and rail, regional aviation had no specific policy framework or funding support mechanisms.

McDouall said the council would support dedicated government funding for regional airports.

"Airport infrastructure is tightly regulated and must be regularly maintained to high safety standards," he said.

"Other countries such as Australia, Canada and the United States support regional airports through dedicated funding programmes."

Regional Development Minister Shane Jones said regional mayors were welcome to make pitches to the Provincial Growth Fund to try and acquire funding.

"I am being lobbied incessantly ... by regional identities such as the mayor of Taupō. So I have encouraged them to tart up their proposals, submit them so the PGF can look at the merits and demerits of such proposals," Jones said.

"I don't want to arrive at the next election where all I have accomplished is to have received a policy migraine in the form of bureaucratic advice that encourages to do nothing."