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Having the New Zealand Prime Minister officially open a building is always a coup for its owners, but John Key last night said it wasn't hard to get him to do the honours for Invercargill's new airport passenger terminal - he volunteered.
The $13.38million terminal, paid for by the Invercargill City Council and its trading company Invercargill City Holdings Ltd, was completed in mid-February.
It replaces a terminal built in 1963.
Mr Key said he was impressed when he first saw it two months ago.
"As I came through the terminal I could see it was pretty much finished but not completely finished, so I said to one of the people I was travelling with: ‘Wow, this is fantastic. When's the official opening?'
"They said they didn't know, and I said: ‘I'll tell you what, if they will have me, I'll come back and open it'.''
Among the 250 guests were Invercargill Mayor Tim Shadbolt, Southland District Mayor Gary Tong, Invercargill MP Sarah Dowie, Air New Zealand chief executive Christopher Luxon and Invercargill Airport Ltd board chairman Joe O'Connell, plus many businesspeople and some city councillors.
Mr O'Connell said annual passenger numbers through the terminal had grown from about 44,000 in 1963 to about 275,000 passengers now.
The new building was a "modern, fresh environment'' which met the operational needs of Air New Zealand - the major user of the airport - and the modern traveller, he said.
"The airport is the first welcome point to our region for many. Southland is so diverse.''