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PM Speech To: Airports Council Int. Conference

Rt Hon Helen Clark Prime Minister

Address at Official Welcome to Delegates At the Airports Council International (ACI) World-Pacific Conference and Exhibition

Aotea Centre Auckland

It is my pleasure to welcome you all to New Zealand, to Auckland, and to the Airports Council International World-Pacific Conference and Exhibition.

It is an honour for our country to host this huge convention which brings airport industry leaders from around the world to discuss the issues, challenges, and opportunities common to all.

And it is an honour for Auckland to have you in our metropolis. Auckland International Airport is our major international hub for travellers and air freight, and it is a pleasure to showcase it to so many industry leaders.

As well, having the convention here is a wonderful opportunity for our airport technology and services companies to exhibit their wares to this influential audience. I know, that working with New Zealand Trade and Enterprise, they will make the most of your presence.

Tourism is a cornerstone of the airport industry, and it is a cornerstone of New Zealand’s economy.

Tourism’s direct and indirect value-added contribution to the New Zealand economy is close to ten per cent of our GDP, and almost ten per cent of our jobs. In the year to March 2004, international tourism earned 18.5 per cent of New Zealand’s export dollars.

Thus, having a world class airport infrastructure is particularly important to New Zealand. We are an island country, and 99 per cent of our international visitors arrive here by air.

Ensuring that our visitors’ first experiences of New Zealand are both pleasant and efficient is of considerable importance to us. Our government has worked closely with our major international airports to keep service standards high.

In the twenty-first century, the airport industry has many challenges before it. For example, developing effective strategies to combat the spread of an avian flu pandemic must involve careful liaison with the airport and wider tourism sectors.

In New Zealand, as elsewhere, government is working on a comprehensive plan for how to manage an outbreak, should one eventuate.

A key and obvious component of any such strategy is to endeavour to prevent the virus entering our country, by tightening border management. Government, airports, airlines, and the tourism industry will need to work together to ensure that harm done in the event of a pandemic is minimised.

In this post 9/11 world, the security threat of terrorism continues to pose challenges for airports, tourism, and governments alike.

New Zealand is seen as a low risk destination, and that has provided a climate for continuing growth for our tourism sector.

Nonetheless, we have worked hard to boost our border security to ensure that our arrangements are world class. The improvements are costly, to the industry and to government, but the cost of not making them would be far greater.

The flow-on effect of high fuel prices, and the ups and downs of the global economy, also create a challenging environment for the airport sector.

Many airlines now seek to meet cost pressures by introducing even bigger planes, such as the Airbus 380. These huge planes and the increased numbers of passengers each carry require significant, new investments by our airports.

Mindful of the need for high service standards for travellers, our government is establishing standard processing times for arriving and departing international air passengers. These new standards, to be fully implemented by 2007/08, require 90 per cent of arriving passengers to be able to clear Customs processes within 60 minutes during peak times and 45 minutes in off-peak times. For departing passengers, 90 per cent will need to be able to clear Customs and Aviation Security processes in 25 minutes.

Our Customs agency is also working to develop an automated border processing system, which would use biometric technologies to allow for more efficient, automated processing of passengers and for border officials to achieve a higher focus on risk management issues.

An issue in which governments have a direct role is the international system of bilateral air services agreements. New Zealand has long been a leader in negotiating ‘open skies’ agreements. We have a single aviation market with Australia, making it one of the most open and competitive markets in the world. We believe the aviation industry worldwide would benefit from less restrictive rules and regulations.

All of these issues point clearly to the need for good working relationships between airports, governments, and the broader tourism sector.

This week, these issues and many more will be before your conference. I wish you all a productive meeting, and hope our many international guests will be able to take time to experience the many delights of our country.

Thank you.

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