- Monday, 02 July 2012 09:31
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The call to abandon the need for passports for transTasman travel hit a new high after the return of flights between New Zealand and the Sunshine Coast re-commenced on the weekend.
The inaugural Air New Zealand flight between Auckland and Maroochydore carried 20 New Zealand travel industry and media representatives among the passenger list and they will spend the next few days researching the region.
The milestone follows the opening of the expansion of the Sunshine Coast Airport that took two years to complete.
Sunshine Coast's mayor, Mark Jamieson, has called for passport and customs requirements for New Zealanders coming to Australia to be scrapped as part of a bold plan to build a $400 million business on the back of the new services.
About 20 immigration, customs and agriculture officers had to be moved in from Brisbane on overtime to meet the international flight - a twice-weekly bill the airport has to account for.
Cr Jamieson said he would like to see border control measures eased for New Zealand. "We should make Australia and New Zealand markets like domestic markets. Eliminate the need for passports and everything else to free up that trade."
FreedomAir operated charter flights from New Zealand to the Sunshine Coast some years ago but the new services are the first on a scheduled basis. Up to 168 visitors will be using the twice weekly services from across the Tasman.
Tourism leaders hope the new international flights from Auckland will add another 50,000 room nights a year to ultimately turn a $190 million direct and indirect benefit into a $400 million windfall. Destination Sunshine Coast CEO Steve Cooper said he would like to see flights into the Coast extended to Christchurch and Wellington.
"It is estimated these seasonal flights will add another 50,000 new room nights and a huge cash injection for the region," Mr Cooper said.
Air New Zealand and Virgin Australia have launched these flights to the Sunshine Coast as part of their trans-Tasman alliance, which sees them code-share on all flights between Australia and New Zealand, providing guests with more choice and more direct destinations.
New Zealand is the biggest international market for the Sunshine Coast with about 75,000 visitors arriving annually.