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Rotorua: International Air Service Begins

Rotorua celebrates start to international air services

14 December 2009:

Rotorua has the world's newest international airport. On Saturday (December 12) the city hosted the inaugural flight of Air New Zealand's new twice-weekly direct A320 service between Sydney and Rotorua and Mayor Kevin Winters was on board. Mayor Winters described the first trans-Tasman flight as a very proud moment and a boost for the Rotorua economy.

"I can never think of any city in the world where I’d rather be mayor. But this week I am especially proud to be mayor of Rotorua.

The arrival of Air New Zealand flight NZ978 from Sydney on Saturday was a truly historic occasion. I was delighted to be on board along with Mayor Greg Piper from our Australian sister city of Lake Macquarie, former mayor Grahame Hall, Deputy Mayor Trevor Maxwell, RDC chief executive Peter Guerin and many other excited travellers from both sides of the Tasman.

What a wonderful moment in time for our community to celebrate; history in the making and the start of something very special and immensely important for Rotorua’s future.

When Charles Kingsford-Smith flew his 'Southern Cross' Fokker Trimotor into Rotorua on 17 January 1933, having already become the first person to fly across the Tasman, he could hardly have imagined that a direct transtasman commercial airline service would be operating into Rotorua 77 years later from Sydney’s Kingsford-Smith International Airport.

Nor could Jean Batten, another of the world’s great aviators, have ever imagined that her home town of Rotorua would see a direct airline service from Sydney starting exactly 100 years after she was born.

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The three hours flying time for today’s A320 flights between Rotorua and Sydney are of relative brief duration compared to the long and arduous planning journey we have been on before reaching our destination on Saturday. It has taken many, many years.

It needed bold vision and steely determination by council leaders to make the original decision to go for transtasman flights. Fortunately successive councils and their management teams have stayed right on track with that vision ever since. I extend my congratulations and thanks to them all, and to our airport company and Air New Zealand.

The huge job of extending our airport terminal complex and runway has not been without its challenges. A long drawn out consent process, some active opposition and protracted Environment Court action meant completion took many more years than we had originally hoped for. But the big day has come and it is the start of something with huge potential for Rotorua.

Ten years ago Queenstown also welcomed its first twice-weekly transtasman flights. Today they enjoy up to 27 flights a week from Sydney, Brisbane and Melbourne, and their local economy has skyrocketed as a result.

We in Rotorua also have the opportunity to benefit from even more transtasman flights, if we make these services a big success. Many jobs will be created here and our economy will get a real boost. Like Queenstown we have a focus on tourism. But here in the Bay of Plenty and neighbouring areas we also have a more diversified economy with many other business and industry sectors ready to take advantage of our newfound status as the city with the world’s newest international airport.

It’s not just our region's motels and hotels, tour operators, restaurants and rental car businesses that will benefit. The economic impact will be felt right throughout our communities, trickling down into all corners of our local economies.

We can all benefit – so long as we grab the opportunities, we do it now, and we do it well."

ENDS

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