ACT News

Andrew Barr heads to New Zealand to lobby for international flights

Chief Minister Andrew Barr will make the case for direct international flights to Canberra in New Zealand this week, seeking to capitalise on the busy air route for local tourism and business. 

ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr.
ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr. Photo: Rohan Thomson

Mr Barr will hold a series of meetings with New Zealand government ministers and officials from the City of Wellington to discuss visitor opportunities and promote Canberra Airport as a possible gateway for international flights to the country. 

The pitch comes as the ACT government continues to woo carriers with operations based in Singapore, seeking to bring direct flights from the Asian powerhouse city-state to Canberra through a $1.1 million fund for co-operation between airlines and tourism agencies promoting Canberra.

Mr Barr said Canberra Airport's $480 million upgrades to facilities and capability positioned the city well for direct international flights, which would boost jobs and a range of economic activities.

Direct flight arrivals has long remained an elusive goal for the government.


International trade delegations to Asia in 2013 and 2014 saw Mr Barr negotiate with budget and full-cost carriers based including in Singapore, working alongside Canberra tourism agencies and local business. 

Singapore Airlines, Air New Zealand, Qantas, Virgin, Emirates and Etihad Airways have all met with ACT officials.

The government's tourism strategy aims to grow the value of overnight visitor expenditure to the ACT to $2.5 billion by 2020, benefiting Canberra and the capital region. 

So far, no airline has sought to take up government marketing dollars despite a mooted "first-mover advantage" that includes selling points such as access to the federal government and growing tourism destination markets. 

"New Zealand visitors are the highest contributor to Australia's tourism industry in annual visits, however the country ranks as number five in the ACT's own tourist numbers due to lack of direct flights," he said in a statement.

"Direct flights from New Zealand present a great opportunity to boost our tourism economy. The move would also provide travellers from the Canberra region with a gateway to access New Zealand in a significantly shorter time."

The New Zealand visit was originally planned in December but was delayed as Mr Barr took over as Chief Minister after the resignation of Katy Gallagher.

This week he will meet with representatives of organisations including Grow Wellington and Positively Wellington Tourism to discuss tourism strategy, city branding, infrastructure development and closer economic co-operation between both national capitals.

On Friday, Mr Barr will take part in the Australia New Zealand Leadership Forum in Auckland. The event will see discussions on building stronger economic ties between the two countries.

Mr Barr will also tour Christchurch to view the implementation of their urban renewal agenda in the wake of the 2010 and 2011 earthquakes.

Government-commissioned research released ahead of last year's territory budget showed daily services from Singapore and New Zealand could generate $139 million in annual benefits for the Canberra region and as many as 1085 jobs.

The Chief Minister's office confirmed the airline stimulus fund continued to support the development of business cases and co-operative marketing programs for direct international flights to Canberra.

The Visit Canberra agency works with the tourism industry and links with Tourism Australia campaigns to raise awareness of what the Canberra region has to offer international tourists and travel companies.

Construction of a $50 million, 191-room hotel continues about 150 metres from the Canberra Airport terminal.