Air New Zealand, with the support of Christchurch Airport,
on December 4 started a direct flight between Christchurch
and Perth, which it is estimated will bring about $15 million
to the South Island economy by the time the seasonal flights
finish at the end of April. Business editor Dene Mackenzie
was on the inaugural flight.
Perth is facing growing unemployment and Christchurch needs
skilled and unskilled workers to help with the rebuilding
of the earthquake-damaged city. Photo supplied.
Much was made of the links between Christchurch and Perth
during a visit to the Western Australian city by 26 industry
and travel leaders and executives and assorted media earlier
Perth is said to be reinventing itself as it faces an influx
of about 1500 new residents a week. Flying into Perth, the
landscape seems scarred but not with mining. New housing
estates are springing up on sand dunes almost as far as the
eye can see.
Christchurch is rebuilding itself, because it has to, and the
reasons for the two cities to share their expertise seem
Christchurch needs skilled and unskilled workers to help with
the rebuilding of the earthquake-damaged city and Perth is
facing growing unemployment. In some parts of WA,
unemployment is close to 12% as a slowdown in the demand for
ore and other resources, along with falling gold prices,
makes life tough for the junior resources companies. Some
''small-cap miners'' are just hanging on for the year to end.
After a peak in June, the companies have faced sliding value.
Canterbury Employers and Chamber of Commerce chief executive
Peter Townsend, who was on the whirlwind trip to Perth, said
the city's construction industry had been through an enormous
boom but seemed to be slowing.
''There are 70,000 Kiwis living in Perth, some directly
working with the mining industry. There are a lot of skills
available in the construction industry. While Kiwis have been
moving to the west coast [of Australia], we are hoping some
Kiwis can come back to work in Christchurch.''
With the direct flights between Perth and Christchurch,
working in Christchurch did not necessarily mean relocating
The flight between Christchurch and Perth was three hours
shorter than having to fly to Auckland and then down to the
South Island, he said.
''I expect some ebb and flow between the two cities.''
However, Mr Townsend did not expect his organisation or his
members to actively advertise for staff in Perth. Rather, he
expected them to rely on social media, family links and
contacts with friends working in the same types of jobs.
Mining executives spoken to last week, in a separate part of
the trip undertaken by the ODT, said mining workers
were being laid off in droves and felt Christchurch employers
should talk to resource companies directly about what skills
laid-off staff had. Although many had skills specific to
mining, engineering staff had a wide range of skills that
could be employed in the city's rebuild.
Christchurch Airport general manager aeronautical business
development Matthew Findlay had worked on helping establish
the direct link for more than two years.
The airport was providing ''support'' for the link rather
than underwriting Air New Zealand, he said.
The airport company had invested a ''significant amount of
money'' in the project but Mr Findlay would not disclose how
much, despite persistent questioning.
Mr Findlay said the Otago Daily Times did not
understand the rationale behind the airport's long-term plan
behind the support.
The airport was looking long-term with the idea of helping
the route become profitable for Air New Zealand, thereby
extending the season.
While he talked about attracting WA skiers to the South
Island, the inaugural service finished in April. At the
cocktail function welcoming the New Zealand party to Perth,
no inbound WA tourism operators were present, something which
concerned some of those on the trip.
Mr Findlay said those operators had been hosted a month or so
previously, despite the New Zealand operators being keen on
the night to talk to their WA counterparts. One would have
welcomed the opportunity to talk to a WA operator.
At the function, WA Tourism Minister Liza Harvey made much of
attracting New Zealand visitors to Perth.
Mr Findlay said Christchurch Airport had identified in March
2012 the possibility of a direct flight and had considered
several airlines before deciding to approach Air New Zealand.
His Perth counterpart made several visits to Auckland for
discussions on the project, arriving on a morning flight and
returning the same day.
Eventually, a memorandum of understanding was signed between
the airports and the airlines - Air New Zealand and its
code-share partner Virgin - to advance the talks.
In November last year, a meeting was held in Christchurch of
selected tourism and industry leaders to explain the project,
which received an overwhelming endorsement.
The South Island ''catchment'' for WA tourists was extended
to Wellington to provide a larger number of people who could
work on attracting visitors across the Tasman on the direct
''Air New Zealand was positive about what was possible. This
was something the South Island believed would be successful.
Air New Zealand saw the potential and elevated its level of
The airport company had provided seed money to give Air New
Zealand confidence in the flight, supported the
familiarisation visit to WA, and hosted sales and regional
tourism operators in Perth to help identify the opportunity
to ensure the long-term opportunities were realised, he said.
Singapore Airlines had been flying into Christchurch for 27
years, with only practical support from the airport - ''small
Te Anau-based John Robson, the general manager of Southern
Discoveries, said 45% of all tourists now coming to New
Zealand were from Australia.
Queenstown was a destination in its own right, but the
numbers had changed regarding Milford Sound. Formerly, one in
three Australian visitors went to Milford Sound. Now, it was
one in four.
Travel agencies were engaging with China, India and Indonesia
because of the growing wealth in those countries.
''A lot of people have forgotten Australia is our biggest,
closest and easiest-to-reach market.''
Mr Robson was supportive of the direct flight as Australians
were good repeat business for tour operators.
When former Australian prime minister Kevin Rudd paid out
$A900 ($NZ980) to taxpayers, New Zealand operators were quick
off the mark in encouraging visitors in their 40s and 50s to
come to New Zealand.
''We blew them away. When they come the first time they do
the `iconic' sites like Milford Sound. But when they have
knocked off those, they spread out to Dunedin and the Catlins
region. We definitely see that from our own operations in Te
Mr Findlay said the idea was to get more people flying into
Christchurch and have them spread out into the rest of the
- Dene Mackenzie travelled to Perth with the assistance of
Air New Zealand, Christchurch Airport and Tourism Western