Air Rarotonga Plans For Niue

Wed Apr 18, 2001 12:32 am

Air Raro’s Niue fix from
April 9 2001 - Cook Islanders may think we have population problems. But next door neighbours Niue are 10 times worse off, with just 1,400 people compared to our 14,000.
“We have whole villages of empty houses,” says Bryce Newcombe, manager of the stunning Matavai Resort.
In the last 10 years, Niue’s population has shrunk from over 2,000 to today’s levels.
Empty houses line the roads, waiting for the return of a tourism boom that has already come and gone.
As neighbours, “next door” to Niue is, of course, three hours by Air Rarotonga’s SAAB 340 aircraft, about 586 nautical miles for pilots and 1,072kms for the rest of us.
That distance may about to be shrunk by this country’s only domestic airline, one cheerfully described by chief executive Ewan Smith as a “monopoly.”
Air Rarotonga is not yet going to lay on regular flights to Niue but has put forward a package to their government that Smiths says is a “leading contender” for approval.
For residents like Newcombe that can’t come soon enough. His resort had a boomer last year but with the collapse of the country’s airline, Royal Tonga, the sweeping decks are empty and the country’s tourism industry has shrunk to zero.
Another resident says morale on the island is at similar levels.
“They’ve been hoping tourism will recover and now this,” he says.
Crushed coral roads, reliable power, free internet access and a good quality resort add up to an attractive package that equals opportunity to Smith.
“It’s not like they don’t have the infrastructure, and we have the plane, so hopefully we can get this working,” he says on the way to Niue. — Jason Brown


This could not come soon enough. I have had word thru some Niuean friends here in PER that the business life in Niue is close to collapse at the moment, with no firm plans to brings in the tourists which the island is becoming more dependant on.

Also, in a further development, Air Rarotonga has now be licenced by the NZ CAA as an international airline, allowing it to commence flights to Niue, once their plans are approved (mere formality) by the Nuiean government. There are also possible plans for service from RAR-INU-PPT in the future using the airline's Saab 340.

I also noticed in this report the name Ewan Smith. Can some tell me where I know this name from. He is a Kiwi businessman right? Previous history?
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RE: Air Rarotonga Plans For Niue

Wed Apr 18, 2001 8:41 am

Fakalufa lahi atu, (SP)
Well this is good news for Niue if it goes through!! I donot know why AirNZ doesn't start up flights to Niue from AKL. As there is alot of Niuean Citizen's living in AKL!! (Otara!!)
It will be good to see my (Yes i come from Rarotonga) hometown airline operating internationally, but with a Saab340?? That would be one of the most uncomfortable flights anyone could take!!

Hope it does happen though!!

I think Ewen Smith was a Bussiness man in AKL who had close relations to the Airline Bussiness. (Don't quote me on that!!)

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RE: Air Rarotonga Plans For Niue

Sat Apr 21, 2001 1:21 pm

A wee update:

Island Air Service Brings Hope For Troubled Niue

John Andews
Niues hopes of economic survival may lift slightly this weekend when Air Rarotonga runs a trial flight to the isolated South Pacific state.

The tiny islands already shaky outlook turned bleaker three weeks ago after the grounding of Royal Tongan Airlines which provided Niues only air link with the outside world.

Prospects of a bumper tourist season for Niue began to turn to custard as tourists by the score cancelled their holidays for lack of a reliable air service.

Then up popped Air Rarotonga again. Having submitted a plan 18 months ago to provide a Cook Islands-Niue service with its Saab 340 aircraft, the airline has renewed its interest in the wake of RTAs woes.

A New Zealand civil aviation inspector will be among passengers Air Rarotonga will take to Niue on Sunday to complete its long range, over-water assessment, a technical, operational requirement for a commercial air service.

Managing director Ewan Smith told The Independent from Raraotonga yesterday the basic problem facing a prospective airline service provider was insufficient Niue-bound passenger traffic.

With RTAs decision to withdraw its gas-guzzling 737-200 jet service between Tonga and Auckland, Air Rarotonga is redrawing plans to put to Noman Macfarlane, an Auckland aviation consultant commissioned to explore air service options for Niue.

We think we can build a market for tourists there, Smith said. To make the route work, you would need 3000 to 4000 extra visitors.

He believes Air Rarotonga could tap into the annual 75,000 visitors to the Cook Islands, particularly those from Europe and the United States, for a three-day Niue diversion.

Minimum Rarotonga-Niue fares would be $350 each way. The Saab aircraft could take a maximum 24 passengers, each with 20kg of luggage, on the two and a half hour flight.

If Air Rarotonga could not generate $14,000 for each flight, then such a service would not be viable.

Air Rarotonga expects some government seeding if the service were to proceed.

Its original plan called for an injection of $480,000 for route development over the initial 12 months plus an initial commitment of $200,000 for tourist promotion.

One official New Zealand source close to the issue said: Given how gloomy the outlook is for Niue, it [Air Rarotonga] is definitely a hopeful proposition.

It needs to be thoroughly explored.

Since having its air operator certificate [AOC] was withdrawn, RTA has provided small Air Fiji charter flights on domestic routes and between Tonga and Niue .

George Dyer, RTAs commercial manager, said RTA hoped the AOC for its 28-seater Shorts 360 aircraft would be returned next week enabling it to provide a weekly flight to Niue.

If we dont get it, Niue will be stuck, he told The Independent. They will be pretty isolated if they do not have that link.

Niue has approached the [New Zealand] government, Air New Zealand and other airlines. No one seems to be like Royal Tongan Airlines and provide the service.

We did not get subsidised, said Dyer. We had asked for a subsidy [from Niue] but it never eventuated.

Except for one or two months a year, he said, RTA lost money on its direct Auckland-Niue service.

The subsidy sought was less than the $400,000 Niue spent in a vain attempt to get its ill-fated Coral Air service up and running about 18 months ago

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RE: Air Rarotonga Plans For Niue

Sat Apr 21, 2001 4:06 pm

Aviatsiya - I don't think Ewan Smith has made prominant headlines about anything before, not in my memory anyway. He is a family friend, however (I was offered a ride on the Saab from Akl to Raro on its delivery flight, but had to decline due to examination commitments). Please don't confuse him with Ewan Wilson who was behind the Ill fated Kiwi Air, and involved in K2000 airlines, as well.
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