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Government moves to ease airport congestion

21 September 2004

Government moves to ease airport congestion

Prime Minister Helen Clark announced today that the government will spend $5.75 million this financial year on extra border control staff and equipment to facilitate arrivals at Auckland and Christchurch international airports.

The funding will increase to $7.7 million in out years.

Helen Clark visited Auckland International Airport today to make the announcement, together with Tourism Minister Mark Burton, Customs Minister Rick Barker, and Associate Immigration Minister Damien O'Connor.

"Tourists, business visitors and traveling New Zealanders are experiencing unacceptable delays because of congestion at our main airports. It is important to New Zealand's image and reputation that we act against unreasonable delays. The problem has grown as New Zealand continues to experience extraordinary growth in visitor arrivals." Helen Clark said.

"In the 2003/04 year 7.74 million people arrived in or departed from our international airports, a 12 per cent increase over the previous year.

"The increase in passenger numbers was highlighted last summer season when three new airlines started international services in New Zealand, and two years of projected growth occurred in one year.

"New Zealand tourism is a success story, with New Zealand attracting 2.25 million international visitors in the year to June. The industry's growth and reputation are of critical importance to New Zealand.

"That's why we need to have infrastructure in place which can process passengers in a more timely fashion, while still undertaking the checks and clearances which are essential to protecting New Zealand."

The funding will provide:

· 96 more customs officers at Auckland International Airport, ensuring the 50 arrival and departure booths are fully staffed at peak times, including allowance for some off-schedule flights · Two new MAF x-ray machines and 17 new staff at Auckland international Airport · Nine extra Customs officers at Christchurch, as well as five new MAF Quarantine officers and a new MAF x-ray machine.

Helen Clark said the congestion at Auckland and Christchurch international airports had been building for three years.

"Last summer 10 per cent of passengers arriving during peak periods queued more than 1 hour and 15 minutes at the Customs primary processing point, the passport control desks. Some waited considerably longer than that.

"This is not the sort of experience we want to subject travellers to after what, for many, has been a long and tiring flight.

"Auckland International Airport, in particular, has been straining at the seams in the peak season, and at peak arrival and departure times.

"Both Auckland and Christchurch airport companies and the border agencies have worked together to find solutions. The airport companies are investing in expanding the space, while the Government is funding the positions to staff the extra space.

"This is a good example of the government and business working together in the interests of New Zealand," Helen Clark said.

ENDS

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