Nelson/Blenheim flight service secured for SH6 closure25/10/2022 5:00pm
Nelson Mayor Nick Smith has worked with local company Originair to set up a morning and evening return air service between Nelson and Blenheim to help people affected by the seven-week closure of SH6.
The route will operate on a trial basis for the first two weeks of the closure from 1 November and will be extended for the full seven weeks if there is sufficient demand.
“State Highway 6 is a critical link for both Nelson and Marlborough, and its closure for seven weeks for repairs from the devastating August weather event is going to be very disruptive for the 4000 vehicles that would normally use it each day,” says Mayor Nick.
“The alternative route through the Wairau Valley extends the trip by an hour from 1hr 40min to 2hrs 40min. I am very grateful to Originair for stepping in with this air service that will enable the trip to be flown in 20 minutes.”
The greatest benefit of the flights will be less disruption to public services like health.
“I initiated this air service after an approach from Nelson/Marlborough health staff who were at loss as to how they would maintain full services while the highway was closed,” says Mayor Nick.
“There are many health professionals that commute between Nelson and Blenheim who were facing over five hours of driving each day with little time left to see patients and provide care. There will also be dozens of business people and other travellers who will see it as a better alternative than the long drive.”
Te Whatu Ora Health New Zealand, Nelson Marlborough, Interim District Director, Lexie O’Shea, said:
“We operate as one health system across the Nelson and Wairau hospital sites. Every day, allied health, nursing and medical staff go between hospitals to see patients, receive training and coordinate services. Managers look after services across the sites and so travel regularly on this route. Enabling services, such as learning and development and IT, also support teams across the Nelson Marlborough district.
“Where clinically appropriate, services will be switching to telehealth or virtual consults during the road closure, reducing the need for travel. We also have a wonderful flight team who transfer urgent and acute patients across the country, ensuring people get to the right place of care at the right time, but this service is not designed to transfer staff across Nelson and Wairau sites. We are very grateful for the addition of a flight service during the road closure as it will mean people will continue to receive the healthcare they need.”
The service will be provided by an 18-seater Jetstream twin-turbo prop-pressurised aircraft operated by a two-pilot crew. The schedule is as follows:
- Leave Nelson: 7.40am - Arrive Blenheim: 8.10am
- Return from Blenheim: 8.40am – Arrive Nelson: 9.10am
- Leave Nelson: 4pm – Arrive Blenheim 4.30pm
- Return from Blenheim: 5pm – Arrive Nelson: 5.30pm
“Originair indicated that the service was uneconomic without some support. I am very grateful for the Nelson and Marlborough Airport Companies for waiving their landing charges, which alongside support from the Mayoral Relief Fund of a $10 per seat subsidy, up to a maximum of $10,000, has made the service possible.
“I’d also like to thank the mayors of Marlborough and Tasman, Nadine Taylor and Tim King, for their support and the assistance of Nelson MP Rachel Boyack in securing additional funds from Government for the Mayoral Relief Fund for addressing the disruption from SH6 closure.”
Originair CEO Rob Inglis said the airline was looking forward to keeping Nelson and Blenheim connected over the coming weeks.
“We’re going to save a lot of unnecessary travel for people with essential journeys over the coming weeks. I’d like to thank the airport companies for allowing us to run this service on a community service cost recovery basis only.”
Mayor Smith strongly encourages people to use this air service that we have been able to secure at short notice.
“The commitment from Originair is to trial it for the first two weeks to see whether there is sufficient demand. People using this service will not only be reducing their travel time but will be helping others, helping us maintain health services and helping the local economy through this disruption.”