Dunedin MPs are in a dogfight over Air New Zealand's
decision to cut a daily flight between the city and Auckland.
This week the Otago Daily Times reported the airline
had cut its only evening flight between the cities, angering
some in the business community.
Dunedin North MP David Clark and Dunedin South MP Clare
Curran said the move showed Dunedin was becoming a backwater
for air services.
However, Dunedin-based National list MP Michael Woodhouse
said yesterday their comments were ''noisy, late and totally
wrong, in respect with what Air New Zealand was doing and
Mr Woodhouse released a January 15 letter to the Air New
Zealand chief executive revealing he had been aware of the
proposed domestic changes, and seeking an explanation.
Those changes mean that from next month the evening flight,
which leaves Auckland at 7pm and arrives in Dunedin at 9pm,
The last direct flight of the day will depart Auckland at
In his letter Mr Woodhouse mentioned the impact the
rescheduling would have on travellers, particularly business
''Unlike what Dr Clark is saying, this has absolutely nothing
to do with Air New Zealand's faith in Dunedin, or
Government's support for it.
"This is a simple scheduling challenge which, I think, will
be bad for Air New Zealand's business and bad for business
travellers wanting to spend a day in either city and then
return home to their home destination.''
Air New Zealand responded to his letter by saying it was an
aircraft availability issue, and it was looking into his
''For Dr Clark to start beating up the Government on this was
just opportunistic nonsense.''
Dr Clark told the ODT that Air New Zealand was reading
''market signals and can see the Government is withdrawing
infrastructure from the regions, with a two-speed economy
Ms Curran said ''Dunedin cannot, and should not, risk
becoming a backwater for air services''.
Asked what Labour would be doing differently if it won the
election, she replied a regional development strategy was
''Evidence by the demise of Hillside, by the imminent demise
of Invermay ... the signals are all that Dunedin is not seen
as an important region in the country.''
Ms Curran deflected a question on whether she supported
underwriting regional flights, but replied she wanted to know
what was behind Air New Zealand's decision.
In a briefing last week, Air New Zealand officials described
the city as, ''last cab off the rank'' in regards to the
changes in fleet from 737s to A320s, she said.
That change from Boeing 737-300 (133 seats) to Airbus A320
(171 seats) compared with the reduction in flights meant
total capacity had gone down about 10%.
An Air New Zealand spokesman said the airline ''frequently
adjusts schedules across the domestic network to match
A Jetstar spokesman said Jetstar offered more than 2500 seats
each week between Dunedin and Auckland, and had no plans to
expand its daily A320 Auckland-Dunedin services.