Wednesday 27 August 2003


Mr FINCH (Question) - My question is to the Leader, and some notice has been given. The Minister for Tourism, Parks and Heritage is no doubt aware of the big shake-up that is taking place in air services to New Zealand. We have moves between Qantas and Air New Zealand, we have the introduction of services by Emirates Airlines and the expected entry of Virgin Blue to trans-Tasman services within a few months. All this heralds a likely price war and a strong stimulus to tourism. From the end of October Air New Zealand, for example, is introducing a return fare of $450 between Melbourne and Auckland, Wellington or Christchurch. I am suggesting that these dramatic changes present an exciting opportunity to Tasmania to re-establish strong tourism and other links with New Zealand. I ask the Leader what the State Government is doing in this regard. Is it hoping to attract an airline to resume a regular service between Hobart and New Zealand? In addition, what is the State Government doing to foster and stimulate existing links between Tasmania and New Zealand?

Mr AIRD - I thank the honourable member for his question. The Government is fully aware of the competitive activities across the Tasman as Tourism Tasmania for some years now has been monitoring the movement between its major markets of New South Wales and Victoria to New Zealand as New Zealand has been identified as the major competitor to Tasmania because of its complementary attraction. Tourism Tasmania has strongly supported the proposed alliance between Qantas and Air New Zealand, which includes a proposed direct service between Hobart and Auckland. Such a service provides a new opportunity for long-haul travellers to travel directly from New Zealand to Tasmania to augment and enhance their natural tourism experience. This linkage would offer new opportunities for the international markets of the United States and Canada as it will allow visitors to travel in one direction, either through a major Australian port to Tasmania then to New Zealand and back to the Northern Hemisphere or vice versa, from Auckland to Hobart and on to the rest of Australia and home.

The State Government has worked closely with Virgin Blue which has announced its intention to establish a trans-Tasman service in coming months. This will provide new opportunities for travellers between Australia and New Zealand to travel seamlessly to Tasmania using this low-cost service. It is well established that Tasmania offers a unique holiday experience for New Zealanders who are particularly attracted to the Georgian heritage of the State. Tourism Tasmania continues to look for strategic opportunities to further build international visitation at a time when international visitors are decreasing to mainland Australia, while Tasmania is achieving an increase in visitor numbers.

Back to the issue of competition. It is important to understand that there are and have been for some time a large number of international carriers providing competitive fares between Australia and New Zealand. Emirates' entry into this market adds to that competition. Relating to competition between these major markets and New Zealand and Tasmania, the Government is pleased to look back at the decision we made to encourage Impulse and, subsequent to the Ansett demise, Virgin Blue to provide needed competition on the Tasmanian route. This competition has seen an introduction of services to its highest-ever level and competitive prices never before experienced.

It is now over a year that Tasmanians have been benefiting from this competitive new environment. This new environment with Spirit s I , II and soon Spirit III have seen unprecedented take-up of Tasmania as a holiday destination. The Government is working with the industry in developing our infrastructure, with over $330 million already identified. We are also building our experience base with the recent announcement of $10 million over the next two years to improve our parks and heritage amenities. We have developed a strategic partnership with Melbourne airport and owners of Launceston airport by insisting and ensuring that Melbourne is the preferred gateway to Australia. This strategy and our focus on key international markets will continue to deliver the required result for Tasmania.

The Government will continue to work with all airlines such as Australian and Qantas and other international carriers to encourage, wherever possible, direct services to Tasmania. In the current global environment and airline uncertainty I am sure that members would be fully aware that airlines are minimising risk, consolidating their current operations and not necessarily looking towards expansion.