Minister for Regional Economic Development Shane Jones today opened the new $4.75 million Bay of Islands Airport terminal, 356 days after he drove a digger bucket through the old one to mark the start of demolition work.
The new airport terminal was the first of six “shovel ready” Far North projects, championed by Council-owned trading company Far North Holdings, to receive funding from the Provincial Growth Fund (PGF). These involve upgrading key items of infrastructure that underpin the Far North tourism industry and wider economy.
The PGF contributed $1.75 million to the airport terminal project, enabling FNHL to future-proof the new terminal to cater for baggage screening and related requirements, if introduced by CAA.
Passenger numbers at Bay of Islands Airport have grown by more than a third since Air New Zealand started flying the larger Q300 aircraft on the Auckland-Kerikeri route, with a record 110,000 people flying into or out of the airport last financial year (1 July 2017 to 30 June 2018). That number is expected to rise to 120,000 this financial year.
Far North Holdings chief executive Andy Nock said most of the growth was due to an increase in tourism and business traffic between Auckland and the Bay of Islands.
This was being enabled by the larger aircraft being operated by Air New Zealand on the Auckland-Kerikeri route and boosted by effective marketing, he said. A close partnership between Air New Zealand and the Bay of Islands Marketing and Promotions Group, an organisation comprising local tourism and hospitality providers, was also having an effect.
“We’re expecting traffic to continue growing in the foreseeable future, with an equal mix between business and leisure travel,” Mr Nock said. “With these sorts of numbers it was essential that we did something to improve and streamline facilities at Bay of Islands Airport.”
“We’re delighted to see this terminal open,” said Air New Zealand head of tourism and regional affairs Reuben Levermore, who attended today’s event. “Our services to Kerikeri have experienced healthy growth in recent years, with an average of five flights daily now operating to and from Auckland using our 50-seat Q300 aircraft.
“Our recent domestic marketing campaign to promote the Northland region has underscored this airport’s status as a gateway to the Bay of Islands and Far North.”
The new terminal has roomier departure and arrival areas, a separate luggage collection area, an elevated public viewing gallery and a bookable boardroom-style meeting space. It features some beautiful works of art.
Two pou carved by tangata whenua Ngati Rehia hold vigil at the airside entrance to the terminal, while an installation of glass birds depicting native species, by Auckland artist Luke Jacomb, burst in a vibrant and multi-coloured array across the ceiling.
At the eastern-most edge of the terminal, the point closest to Waitangi, stands a triptych sculpture by Whangarei artists Anthony Dunn and Graham Nathan. This represents the first meeting in Aotearoa New Zealand between Māori, Europeans and Tahitians. Nathan and Dunn were winners of two awards at the 2018 Whangarei Sculpture Symposium (WSS2018); The Quest People’s Choice Award and the Te Au Mārie Journey 250 Award sponsored by Te Au Mārie Sestercentennial Trust and in partnership with Creative Northland.
WSS2018 was inspired by the sestercentennial (250th) anniversary of the voyage of HMS Endeavour, captained by Lieutenant James Cook in the company of Tahitian navigator Tupaia, to explore this country’s coastline. The sculptures commemorate that journey.
“I am nothing short of delighted to be able to stand here today and say to the people of the Far North ‘I told you so’,” Mr Jones said. “I told you that we would be investing in Far North infrastructure and here we are, not even a year later, turning the vision into reality. Far North Holdings has been motoring ahead with its other projects too, many of which have also been part-funded by the PGF, and I can tell you that I’m going to be cutting ribbons all over the Far North before too long.”
Far North mayor John Carter, too, could barely contain his delight at today’s opening ceremony.
“Our district is one of this country’s premier tourism magnets and we are seeing consistent growth in visitor numbers, particularly through Bay of Islands Airport,” he said. “This new terminal is one example of how the Council, through its commercial company Far North Holdings, is working hard to keep pace with that demand. This new facility allows us to more efficiently welcome air travellers to our district and ensure their stay in the Far North is a positive, memorable experience.”