22 November 2016

Kaikoura Aerial Activities getting Airborne Again

Whale watching from the air is set to resume, possibly as early as Tuesday, with tourists flown into earthquake-stricken Kaikoura from other centres. Only the four companies with whale watch permits can run the aerial tours, and feeder services from outside the area are allowing them to get going again. Sounds Air has begun running up to six flights a day into and out of Kaikoura, carrying 10 passengers a time.  The earthquakes have not scared off Kaikoura's whales and flights to view the massive mammals are set to resume. The earthquakes have not scared off Kaikoura's whales and flights to view the massive mammals are set to resume. Chief executive Andrew Crawford said he had received calls from travel agents wanting to get tourists into Kaikoura so they could see the whales, as well as bookings from builders flying into the town and Kaikoura locals keen to leave. Christchurch and Blenheim airports had agreed to waive landing fees for three months which helped to keep fares down to $115 one way from Christchurch and $95 from Blenheim. Sounds Air would reassess the service after three weeks. "If there's demand, we'll keep going," Crawford said. Air Kaikoura manager Murray Hamilton has arranged to collect tourists in Hanmer Springs for a 15 minute flight to Kaikoura where they would land for a "cuppa" and a snack before heading out on a half hour whale watch tour. "We wanted to support local businesses," he said. Other companies  - Wings Over Whales, Kaikoura Helicopters and South Pacific Whale Watch - are also prepared to take out any tourists able to arrange transport to the town which has been cut off by slips caused by last week's earthquake.  Kaikoura Helicopters owner Chelsea Armstrong said she had also been contacted by Hapuku Lodge and Tree Houses about flying in guests. On its website, the up-market resort said it was looking at subsidising helicopter and small plane transfers for clients.  Kaikoura is still effectively cut off with only residents of the Inland Road and essential vehicles permitted to drive from Waiau to Mt Lyford and beyond Whale Watch boss Kauahi Ngapora is calling on the Government to look at all other options if road access cannot be quickly re-established for visitors. That could include digging a new marina to support a ferry service from Wellington, Picton or Christchurch. Extending the grass airstrip to take charter planes carrying 50 passengers was another option, he said, and reports on upgrading the airport were done some years ago.  Whale Watch, which employs 70 staff at this time of year, is not eligible for a Government support package offered to smaller businesses. "If the larger businesses can't be provided with financial support to get us through the tough bit, then we're asking the Government to do what it can to get us up and operating again so we have a fighting chance to go forward. "We have to have these discussions around key infrastructure to get the place moving again," Ngapora said. Hamilton said the airfield could not handle anything bigger than a 12-seater Cessna Caravan and he doubted the feasibility of extending it for larger planes. "We have a hill at one end and a whole heap of pine trees at the other end."  Crawford said any extension would mean moving the terminal building. "I can't see that happening. It's not landing [that's the problem], it's getting out. It's a factor of length and weight."


  1. They need to something with that airstip, if the Kaikoura is going to survive as one of New Zealand's 26 major tourism destinations, to attract a reasonable number of tourists to the town, to make the local tourism industry viable.

    With SH1 out of commission of at least a 1 year, the only other access is by SH70 which is being plagued by slips due to after shocks and weather, making the land unstable, so it will be another 3 to 6 months before the road is stable enough to take 18 to 30 seater coaches or by sea.

    The other factor is, since the Asia/Indian market is rapidly growing, Asian do not like flying in single engine aircraft, as they are nervous travelers. They have this belief that jet engined aircraft are safer than propeller aircraft. Air NZ does have some problems with Asian travelers of their ATR72's.

    If 14 seater caravans are restricted to 10 seats to fly in/out of Kaikoura, you will need 3 caravans for a 30 seater coach, as they travel as a group, especially Chinese tourists.

    Until SH1 is operational, Kaikoura will in essence be of the tourism map and become a small boutique tourist destination for those tourist who are spending 4 weeks or more in NZ. Majority of these tourists will be in rental cars and campervans. Since the north Canterbury earthquakes, more Asian/Indian travelers are already flying from AKL, ROT and lessor extend WLG directly to CHC and ZQN.

    1. what problems does Air NZ have with asian travellers

    2. What I been told, they think the propellers will fall off, hence their preference for jet aircraft.

      Most Asian/Indian travelers, especially those traveling to NZ are first time travelers hence their nervousness.

    3. I don't think many Asians will be going to Kaikoura anytime soon given the Chinese government hired helicopters to get all Chinese out of Kaikoura pretty much immediately.

    4. Unfortunately, Kaikoura has missed on the Chinese market and it will take a long while like after the rebuild of SH 1 between Ward and Cheviot to get the market back, which in the way the Government is saying at least a year. Chinese owned tour operators are already flying their clients either from mainly from AKL to ZQN and lessor extend to CHC, as CHC tarnished with the same brush as Kaikoura.

      Unfortunately, Chinese Tour operators have a lot of control in the way their nationals see New Zealand.

  2. Interesting analysis on Kaikoura. Hokitika has done it well, it has a big enough runway to take ATRs and Q300s and has a similar population of 2700 to Kaikoura and is also a major Tourism hotspot so what Kaikoura really needs is a longer runway the terminal is already fairly big so should be able to accomodate 50 passengers for a flight to Wellington. Then the airfares could be more affordable to be able to attract more tourists to fly in for a holiday. There is so many hotels and motels in the town which will lay empty for now.

    1. Kaikoura success has been the cheaper 6 hours WLG/KBZ ferry/car, the ferry/bus and the ferry/train (May to Sep) services and the 6 hours NSN/KBZ bus services, plus the CHC/KBZ bus and train day excursions, for whale watching or dolphin swim/view tours.

      Because of this, air travel CHC/KBZ/CHC and WLG/KBZ/WLG couldn't compete, hence lack of forwarding planning by the local town and regional council to look at a 'Plan B' should there being any natural disaster. So when the airstrip was sealed, in late 1990's, it was done for scenic flights from CHC and WLG and for local sightseeing air services for Kaikoura's airstrip.

      Since SH 1 is muntered, if Kaikoura is going to survive until SH 1 is rebuilt, the airstrip needs to lengthen to cater for 19 seater like a Metroliner up to 30 seater aircraft like a SAAB.

      The problem with air travel in and out of Kaikoura, once SH 1 is rebuilt in the next 1 to 2 years, air travel in and out Kaikoura will die again when the respective ferry/car, ferry/bus, ferry/train and the bus and train day excursions resume.

      Its going to be a dilemma for both the town and regional councils to figure out what is the best option to future proof the town and its main economy - tourism.

    2. Hokitika = main airport for Greymouth (population approx 10k)...

      Not really comparable with Kaikoura.