No transtasman air freight service

Air New Zealand will be carrying Dunedin passengers to Australia from the beginning of next month, but not the region's freight.

In a statement yesterday, Air New Zealand cargo spokesman Paul Brown said it had been unable to find ‘‘a commercially viable solution for air-freighting goods direct to, or from, Australia through Dunedin in the foreseeable future''.

When approached to explain, Mr Brown referred the Otago Daily Times to another staff member who is on leave.

His statement, released jointly with the Dunedin City Council, said a large number of options were explored.

‘‘Both Air New Zealand and the Dunedin City Council are disappointed that a commercially viable option could not be found.''

It is understood the Air New Zealand planes that will begin operating between Dunedin, Sydney, Brisbane and Melbourne from next month, in place of Freedom Air, will each be capable of carrying about two tonnes of freight.

Otago producers of perishable goods such as flowers, fruit and vegetables have expressed interest in shipping directly out of Dunedin rather than through Christchurch.

Otago Chamber of Commerce chief executive John Christie said last night he continued to believe ‘‘there is a sufficient market from Otago and Southland to warrant some type of direct transtasman freight service''.

Mr Christie said the chamber would ‘‘keep encouraging'' Air New Zealand, but would also explore other options.

‘‘I believe there are other airlines that may look at servicing the Dunedin market and I wouldn't rule out, in the future, that there could be some interest transtasman on some sort of competition with Air New Zealand.''

The chairman of the council's airport gateway committee, Cr John Bezett, said last night Air New Zealand had not given the council any of the figures on which it had based its decision.

‘‘It's got to stack up as a business case for Air New Zealand, so if they are saying to us that it doesn't stack up at this stage, we have to accept that. I don't know how far short we are.''

In its statement, Air New Zealand said it ‘‘remains open'' to providing the service ‘‘should circumstances change and a viable commercial solution be found''.

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