Nelson bid to lure Jetstar to region


Displaying Jetstar-Logo-WEB-Master.JPG Grant Kerr, head of Jetstar New Zealand, says establishing which regions would produce the highest growth in travel will be the key to the airline's decision.

Nelson has made an "encouraging" bid to Jetstar to bring the low-cost airline to the region.

Jetstar New Zealand head Grant Kerr consulted with Nelson airport, council and other organisations' representatives on Thursday as part of a seven-stop roadshow in regions across New Zealand. Jetstar will chose four of the seven regions to operate their fleet of five domestic aircraft from December.

Kerr said Nelson had encouraging factors which made the region appeal to the airline, particularly because of the enthusiasm shown by council representatives and the community.

"The support and eagerness has been encouraging," said Kerr.

"Also as a region [Nelson has] a very good understanding of the low-cost airline model and how that can bring growth to the region."

Kerr met Nelson MP Nick Smith, Nelson mayor Rachel Reese, Tasman mayor Richard Kempthorne, Nelson Airport chief executive Rob Evans, Nelson Tasman Chamber of Commerce chief executive Dot Kettle and representatives from Nelson Tasman Tourism to gauge a view on what the airline would bring to the region.

Jetstar will also be taking the roadshow to Invercargill, Hamilton, Rotorua, New Plymouth, Napier and Palmerston North over the next few weeks.

Kerr said establishing which regions would produce the highest growth in travel by introducing the competing airline was going to be key in making the decision.

"Nelson's total catchment area has a population of about 100,000 with about 800,000 travelling through [Nelson Airport] annually. If Nelson is a [Jetstar] destination we would increase that number considerably," he said.

Kerr did not disclose price points or how many additional flights the airline would introduce to the region. A schedule would be developed after the four regions were chosen. However, he said Jetstar guaranteed the lowest fare which would ultimately reduce average airfare costs while it competed with Air New Zealand, which currently operates out of Nelson.

"We know that whenever we enter into the market we've seen average airfares drop by approximately 40 per cent. We know that works," he said.

The introduction of Jetstar into the four regional terminals is expected to bring about 100 extra jobs to New Zealand.

Evans believes Nelson has "as good a chance as any" to welcome Jetstar to the region.

"We have a strong aviation footprint now and a good tourism product. I think we are very high on [Jetstar's] list of priorities," he said.

Jetstar would be the sixth airline to take off from Nelson's airport terminal. Originair announced on Thursday its intention to fly from Nelson to Wellington and Palmerston North.

Welcoming the additional airlines meant a terminal upgrade was becoming more pertinent, said Evans.

"At the moment we are very constrained so we will have to do something in the short term to accommodate [the foot traffic]," he said.

A short term development plan, including a car park upgrade and additional counters within the terminal, was in place which would roll out over the next six to 12 months.

"We will be geared up and ready [for additional airlines], It will be a tight time frame but that's okay," he said.

A long term development plan was also in the works, but Evans said there were no definite plans on whether the existing terminal would be expanded or whether an entirely new terminal would be built.

Nelson MP Nick Smith also met with Kerr on Thursday to outline the benefits of operating a regional air service from Nelson.

Smith was optimistic about Nelson being chosen as one of the four regional terminals Jetstar would operate from.

"Nelson has a distinct advantage in that we are a growing area, we have excellent airport facilities and the weather means it is rare to have disruptions in the air," said Smith. "I made those points as strongly as I could to Jetstar."

Smith said there was a need for airline competition in Nelson, particularly for small businesses looking for a base in Nelson.

"There has been a reduction in the number of consultancy businesses in Nelson since we have only had a single airline," he said.

"People basing businesses in Nelson to produce a niche service [to serve nationally] are very dependent on airlines."

He said competitive airfares were central to creating a viable business model that could operate nationally.

Mayor Rachel Reese said introducing any new airline would enable more businesspeople, tourists and residents easier access to the city.

She said Nelson posed a good business case to Jetstar with significant interest from both the business and tourism sectors to provide new routes and extended services.

"So that bodes well for the city," she said.

The four chosen regions from Jetstar are expected to be announced "reasonably quickly," said Kerr, with the first regional flights going on sale in September.

JESS PULLAR Last updated 11:13, June 26 2015

- Stuff