Porirua can significantly influence the success of new air links to and from Kapiti Airport. 

At about 30 kilometres from both Wellington Airport and Kapiti Airport, when customers planned their journeys, each customer made their own choice of turning right or left as they left the region, according to Ian Collier, Regional Affairs Manager at Air New Zealand who addressed the recent Chamber breakfast at the Supply Room in Mana. It was that decision which had to be influenced.

After reviewing world aviation market trends, the price of fuel, and the tourism opportunities for New Zealand as a whole, and then in many of the regions, including Kapiti, Mr Collier focussed on the “decision dynamics” which influenced customers.

With populations of 50,000 for Porirua, another 50,000 for Kapiti and 30,000 for Horowhenua, the region had plenty of potential for growth in line with Kapiti airport, particularly as the new roads ensured quicker driving time, there was cheaper airport parking and a less crowded terminal. With four flights per day to Auckland, Kapiti did offer a viable alternative to the Wellington’s 21 flights per day because they came with city traffic congestion, unpredictable weather and the greater likelihood of delays.  

Another factor which was critical in decision-making was the purpose of travel. Business travellers wanted flights at the beginning and the end of each day, while travellers flying to see friends and family were more relaxed and happy to take day time flights.

Pricing and the reliability of the service were also important, but Mr Collier said that of the 320 flights through Kapiti last year, only 21 were cancelled, with one third due to weather, one third to engineering problems, and the final third were affected by crewing difficulties elsewhere.

Mr Collier said that the Kapiti service was being promoted through the chambers and through tactical marketing to build awareness and increase patronage.

“We know this will take time. We know the potential exists. We are monitoring daily,” he said.  “We are achieving about 60 percent occupancy currently, but the target is 80 percent. We certainly recognise the potential of this region, and the other factors which will improve the performance, such the impact of Kapiti expressway, and Transmission Gully motorway. “

Demand consistency was another factor which the airline needed.

“Most people still want the aircraft at the beginning, and the end of the day.  We have a limited resource, and we are working in a burgeoning market, but history tells us that interest is increasing, as awareness and demand joins the other dynamics.”

He said that Kapiti services continued to be a challenge, but with more awareness, and the right proposition, at the end of the day it was the community which makes the decision to use the service or not.

“We want them to make that righthand turn,” he said.

Internationally, Mr Collier said that tourism was on the increases, with a 6 percent growth year on year. Last year 3.7 million visitors came into New Zealand as tourists, and by 2020, the figure will be 4 million – virtually the same again as New Zealand’s current population.

“Tourism is one of our most important sectors now, in export earnings,” he said.

In anticipation of that growth, Mr Collier has been speaking to all 21 regions, trying to help them maximise this opportunity.

“Each region is compelling and unique with something special to offer the overseas tourist, but they have to develop that and market it for tourists and the fastest growing domestic market sector which is New Zealanders visiting friends and family,” he said.

Porirua is well along that path with the Adventure Park development planned for Colonial Knob, the existing adventure pathways for biking and walking, the proposals for harbour edge development, and the increased cycling and walking opportunities throughout the city and villages, plus Porirua’s multi-cultural heritage.

The Chamber has been promoting a ‘use it or lose it’ philosophy for Kapiti Airport, and the challenge is with the whole community to ensure that these airport links are not lost.