Nelson Airport Eyes Big Growth - Nelson Mail

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Big things for the small Nelson Airport complex are in the works as new chief executive Rob Evans gets comfortable in his new role.

"It's the best job in aviation in New Zealand," said Evans.

"There is a great opportunity for growth not just for the airport but for the region."

Evans, who started his role as new chief executive last week, said the airport was currently well run but was getting dated.

"We've got constrained, particularly in peak times and it's tired. It needs increased space to meet the growing demand," he said.

This demand was coming from many channels. An increase in tourists visiting the region had contributed and steady business from Auckland was another factor, said Evans.

"Auckland is a real growth opportunity. It's the gateway to New Zealand from a tourism perspective, more flights to Auckland is a big opportunity," he said.

About nine flights come each way between Nelson and Auckland daily. Evans said there was also potential for Christchurch and Queenstown airport links to grow the market.

He intends to strengthen these links by working closely with Nelson Tasman Tourism and other New Zealand airports to gain as much exposure for the region and Nelson Airport as possible.

Redevelopments are also in the works, including expanding parking facilities and bringing new businesses to the complex.

The building complies with current earthquake standards, but Evans will assess whether to restrengthen or rebuild parts of the complex.

"We are going to look at the options in the next few months. It will come down to meeting the demands of the growth in customers," said Evans.

His past experiences were a contributing factor to his appointment of chief executive. He worked at Cairns Airport for seven years where he played a part in organising its expansion to cater to growing demand.

He also worked for Mackay Airport in Queensland, a smaller airport not unlike Nelson's.

"It is similar in that it is quite isolated and reliant on air access," he said.

His experiences in Australia will be beneficial in his work to redevelop Nelson Airport, he said. He has learnt engagement with community and consulting local boards was the most efficient way to approach a redevelopment.

"I can use my past experiences in terms of how we deliver [proposals and redevelopments]," he said.

Bringing in informative displays for customers to learn more about the region is also on the list, and timely as the airport celebrated 75 years in 2013. "There is a whole opportunity to present [the region's] aviation history. I've seen some really good examples of it," he said.

"In terms of redevelopment plans [the history] is something to recognise."

Evans said Nelson Airport was well ahead of every other regional airport in New Zealand. "The passenger numbers alone show this. It punches well above its weight, it's arguably one of the best regional airports in the South Pacific."