Wanaka Stakeholders Group (WSG) said there is 'no downside' to Tuesday's announcement of a strategic alliance between the three operators of Queenstown, Dunedin and Invercargill airports.
The three commercial airports have signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) to 'foster a collaborative working relationship across the Lower South and to make a positive contribution to the region.' The airport companies will work together to 'identify and explore opportunities and undertake joint initiatives.' The multi-lateral airport arrangement is reportedly a first of its kind in New Zealand.
Queenstown Airport Corporation (QAC) chief executive Colin Keel said, "Over the past two years the airport leaders have been discussing opportunities to work together in a number of areas, including health and safety, environmental sustainability, operational excellence and supporting strategic regional tourism initiatives. Entering into this cooperative arrangement formalises our shared commitment to work collaboratively.”
WSG chair Michael Ross told the Wanaka Sun, "There is no downside to collaboration—particularly where there is a real pooling of resources, expertise and capacity. The three CEOs should be congratulated for this move, and it is something we've been calling for since our group's inception."
Invercargill Airport general manager Nigel Finnerty said, “Working collaboratively with the airports of the Lower South will help open up more of our place to more people. The opportunity to work with the other southern airports on health and safety, operational excellence and environmental sustainability will support connectivity and growth across the entire region.”
“It's now a question of what the scope and scale of this collaboration is," said Ross. "If it's about sharing resources, policies and best practices at an operational level, that's a good solid start, but that's just entry-level collaboration. Let's see if these airport companies truly work together on bold and innovative strategies to utilise existing airport capacity for the benefit of the whole lower South Island.”
Ross continued, "We'd love to see visitors to the Southern Lakes region flying in via existing international airports in Dunedin and Invercargill, giving benefit to those communities and many in between, as well as to the people of Queenstown and Wanaka when they inevitably visit Central Otago. This is a real opportunity for meaningful regional development on the back of bold collaboration,” he said. “We hope that these three airports share the details of their collaboration and their intentions for future growth and development, share the load and that they have the best interests of their respective communities at heart."
The Wanaka Sun shared Ross’ feedback with QAC; in a joint response, the airport companies said, “The MOU formalises our joint commitment to working together and is a major next step in our collaborative relationship. The aspiration is that the MOU is the start of a long-term targeted collaboration that continues to develop over time and benefits each business and the region.
“A key focus is our shared sustainability commitment. On a practical level, one of the first things we’re going to look at is how we can support the use of Electric Vehicles across our region. Other initiatives include Airport Safety week collaboration and aviation rescue fire training and drills.
“We need to be mindful of our obligations under competition law. Airlines, not the airports, determine where air services are provided based on their individual commercial and operational considerations. For example, a clear demonstration of this process is the recently introduced direct Air NZ service between Invercargill and Auckland.
“The three airport companies will work together to explore opportunities that we can support across the Southern region.”