Sounds Air – a message from Mayor John Leggett

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Sounds Air – a message from Mayor John Leggett

  • Date 12:35 PM Thursday 23 April 2020
  • Type COVID-19

Last week I sent a letter to the Minister of Transport Hon Phil Twyford asking him to take urgent action to ensure Sounds Air, a Marlborough icon and important lifeline for our region, can keep its operations going.

My letter followed media coverage last week in which Managing Director Andrew Crawford said Sounds Air has not been able to benefit from the Government’s aviation package and faces the prospect of going into receivership.

As I understand it, the $600m aviation package provides priority for airlines that carry essential food, medicine and COVID-19 tests. I would be disturbed at any suggestion that Sounds Air may not qualify. When the South Island last faced an emergency – the Kaikōura earthquake – Sounds Air came in to provide essential air services between the township and Christchurch, ferrying in health and recovery workers and taking out stranded tourists.

We now face our most pronounced crisis and potentially prolonged recovery. Our tourism and hospitality industries, in particular, are already reeling from the impact of COVID-19.

The Government is encouraging New Zealanders to increase domestic tourism when we emerge from lockdown; if there
is no Sounds Air – and greatly reduced Air New Zealand services into Marlborough and other regional centres, as seems certain – the potential for people to travel between our main islands will be greatly reduced.

Sounds Air is based here in Marlborough and forms a fundamental part of our region’s aviation infrastructure, with the majority of its 80 jobs here. More than that, Sounds Air provides essential direct services from Marlborough to Wellington, Kapiti and Christchurch; also Sounds Air links Wellington to Taupo and Westport; these centres have no alternative services.

I have asked the Minister to consider that a fraction of his $600m aviation package would ensure we retain at least some Sounds Air services, and have asked him to direct his officials to find a solution which serves the national interest, particularly regional New Zealand including Marlborough.

I will let you know when I receive a response. In the meantime I offer my very best wishes to Andrew and the whole team at Sounds Air.

John Leggett
Mayor of Marlborough