Air New Zealand today added to the debate about Auckland International Airport's purchase of a stake in Queenstown Airport, saying airlines should be allowed to invest in the airport as well.
Auckland Airport said on July 8 that it is investing in a 24.99% shareholding in Queenstown Airport by subscribing for new shares for $27.7 million. It has an option to increase the holding from 30% to 35% at any time up to June 30, 2011.
A high-powered group of Queenstown business and community leaders have come out in opposition to the deal, saying there was no consultation and the airport should remain locally owned.
Air New Zealand group general manager Australasia Bruce Parton today said that allowing airlines to invest in Queenstown Airport would ensure one of New Zealand's most important tourism infrastructure assets had the financial strength to grow.
"It would also see Queenstown Airport have investors who genuinely understand how to grow tourism into Queenstown – by keeping the cost of travel down," he said.
"This is in contrast to Auckland International Airport, which has a track record of gouging users like airlines, taxi and rental car companies to the point where they have to put up the cost of travel.
"Air New Zealand would be willing to lead a consortium of airlines to take a cornerstone shareholding in Queenstown airport and commit to ensuring the cost of travel stays down.
"We would not seek any dividends and ask that these be reinvested into the airport infrastructure to ensure it remains world class and can cope with increased demand due to all airlines offering attractive domestic and transtasman fares."
If a consortium arrangement does not eventuate, Air New Zealand would be prepared to consider any proposal to contribute to or underwrite infrastructure development at Queenstown Airport, as the airline has done in the past.
This would certainly allow the community to retain full ownership of this important asset.
"We've been committed to growing the Queenstown market for more than 30 years and want to ensure its ongoing success for decades to come. We believe the current arrangement will not be conducive to that and are not surprised by the level of community and business anxiety over AIAL's investment," Mr Parton said.