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The Press-News column. June 3

Change of Guard at Christchurch Airport.

What a difference a new broom can make. With the city council’s new chief executive, Karleen Edwards, commencing work in a fortnight, the change of guard at Christchurch Airport exemplifies the potential transformative effect. The airport’s new CEO, Malcolm Johns, who succeeded Jim Boult in January, appears to have made repairing fractured relationships priority numero uno. Prior to his arrival, Christchurch Airport had seemingly managed to get off-side with every major client group. Car park users, commercial vehicle operators and the airline board of representatives. The common denominator was exorbitant hikes in access fees and user charges. Furthermore, the airport company antagonised our national carrier, by launching a woefully misguided parochial campaign that exhorted Cantabrians to snub Air New Zealand’s international services out of Auckland, and fly long-haul from Australia instead, in a cock-eyed bid to woo more international services to Christchurch. Needless to say, the campaign belly-flopped. But on a local front, the rise and rise of the snaggle-toothed toll-gate around Christchurch Airport positioned the council-owned company as a rapacious little empire, with an unsavoury eagerness to mug passers-by. In addition to the sky-high parking charges, the thumping increase to commercial vehicle levies sabotaged complimentary shuttle services and ratcheted up taxi fares. But that is all about to change. From next week, the airport’s re-tuned car parking rates come into force, with an increase in the free parking provision to 15 minutes in the Express park. And on-site airport parking rates will now be very much in line with Auckland and Wellington. The airport company’s new EconoPark, located a 1km away from the terminal, is being spruiked as the new cheap and cheerful long-stay option. But Econopark, which was first conceived under Jim Boult’s watch, is not necessarily the cheapest long-stay provider. Airpark Canterbury, the only 24 hour privately-owned airport parking operator clearly remains the long-stay price leader, when you compare overnight or weekly parking rates. Meanwhile, next month, big price reductions take effect for courtesy vehicles and on-demand taxis. The $10 courtesy vehicle access fee will be chopped in half and for taxis, the annual licence fee of $5000 will be scrapped. Instead, taxis will pay $4.78 each time they drop off or pick-up a customer. So, come July, don’t let any taxi sock you anymore than $5 as an “airport surcharge.” In discussion with the Copthorne Commodore’s Michael Patterson, the Tourism Industry Association’s local hotel sector chairman Bruce Garrett and Airpark Canterbury’s Graeme Harris, they unanimously credit Malcolm Johns as being the catalyst for change. Bravo to the new airport boss for swiftly moving to start mending the fences.

Mike’s weekly current affairs column, first published in The Press. June 3.


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