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Oz Aviation Moves Inline With Whenuapai Proposal

Media Statement February, 27 2004

AUSTRALIAN AVIATION MOVES INLINE WITH WHENUAPAI AIRPORT PROPOSAL

The introduction of new low cost $29 fares between Sydney and Melbourne by Qantas - owned Jetstar illustrate the fast changing nature of the aviation market, and the validity of plans to allow civil use of Whenuapai Airport.

Infratil spokesman Tim Brown says Jetstar has chosen to use Avalon, the ex-military, airport in Melbourne, and is also considering using Richmond airport in Sydney. Avalon is about 45 minutes by car from Melbourne CBD as opposed to 35 minutes for Tullamarine.

"Low-cost airlines want to use airport facilities that suit the nature of their operations. There will be big benefits for the travelling public as these airlines pass on cost savings and efficiencies by way of lower fares."

Avalon Airport has previously been used for training, freight and general aviation purposes. This is the first time it has received scheduled commercial passenger services.

Infratil is partnering Waitakere City Council in a bid to develop Whenuapai Airport for civil use, with an associated industrial development.

Mr Brown says developing Whenuapai in this way is attractive to low cost airlines, Infratil has been in discussion with a number of airlines and Pacific Blue has publicly expressed its support.

"Auckland Airport has made much of being all the airport Auckland needs, without mentioning how much it will cost to operate and expand the airport and to build the roads to Mangere. If Auckland Airport can do everything, then why isn't Pacific Blue flying to Auckland when it has already initiated services to Christchurch and Wellington?"

Mr Brown said it was disappointing that Manukau Mayor, Sir Barry Curtis, is supporting Auckland International Airport in trying to kill the Whenuapai proposal. Auckland Airport is a major factor in Manukau's economy, but civil operations at Whenuapai will have no adverse effect on South Auckland.

"Auckland Airport's profitability will not be impacted by Pacific Blue, Freedom or Jet Star flying to Whenuapai. The chief executive of Tullamarine Airport, Chris Barlow, has said of Jetstar's decision to use Avalon, "this is competition, this is growing the pie, the whole market is going to grow. I absolutely expect we will not lose traffic here."

Mr Brown said Mangere is one of the world's most profitable operations and it has fantastic facilities for long-haul carriers arriving from Asia and North America, but its operations and cost structures do not suit what low-fare regional airlines want.

"We are also interested in yesterday's announcement from Air New Zealand that it is to expand Freedom and that this is not expected to gain at the expense of other Air New Zealand services because, as Ralph Norris said: "We see that we can actually grow the market with Freedom.". "

Mr Brown said "people in Auckland's north and west are tired of getting up in the dark to catch a plane to Wellington or Sydney, and they want cheap airfares and jobs in their areas. Whenuapai's impact will be from growing the air travel market. Most of the services to and from Whenuapai will not be at Auckland Airport's expense but will represent more people flying more often and many of these will be inbound international tourists."

Mr Brown said Aucklanders should look to the future, and think how difficult it was becoming to travel around the region.

"They should remember that is was local body politicians of a past era who saw no need to complete a planned motorway system, and thought there would never be a need for more than two lanes each way on the harbour bridge. Today's politicians should not be voting to destroy a fully functional airport, capable of delivering so many benefits, just to preserve Auckland International's monopoly at Mangere," said Mr Brown.

ENDS

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