Leaders underscore direct airlink between New Zealand and India

INZBC Summit provides avenues for Aviation, Tourism and Technology

Venkat Raman

At least three leaders representing the two major political parties stressed the importance of direct airlink between New Zealand and India, not meaning though, non-stop, long haul flights that exist between Auckland and Dubai in the United Arab Emirates and Doha in Qatar.

Justice Minister Andrew Little, Ethnic Communities Minister Jenny Salesa and National Party Leader and Leader of the Opposition Simon Bridges share a common platform today (Friday, September 28, 2018) in Auckland to express their consensus over the issue.

Summit Themes

They spoke at different times at the Summit of the India New Zealand Business Council (INZBC) at Pullman Hotel.

The one-day event brought key personalities representing the Summit 2018 theme of Aviation, Tourism and Technology, from various States in India, Australia and New Zealand.

Mr Little said that direct airlink between New Zealand and India would be ‘helpful in building stronger bilateral relationship and facilitate ease of travel.

“Apart from the fact that the Indian population is growing in New Zealand, students from India constitute the second largest in our export education sector and trade visits between the two countries standing at 290,000 a year, demonstrates the strength of our relationship,” he said.

Free Trade Agreement

Mr Little said that two visits of John Key (in June 2011 and October 2016) to India during his term as Prime Minister and the meeting that the current Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern had with India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the side-lines of India-ASEAN and East Asia Summit in November last year were indicative of New Zealand’s strong desire to foster better relations with the world’s largest democracy.

“Phil Goff, during his tenure as Trade Minister in the Labour government, initiated the study to explore the possibility of a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with India. The National government began trade talks in 2010 and since then, several rounds of negotiations have taken place although we have not been able to conclude a deal,” he said.

Air New Zealand Services

Mr Little said that while Air New Zealand has a codeshare agreement with Singapore Airlines reaching passengers to Singapore, the Asian hub from which there are connections to worldwide destinations through Singapore Airlines and other operators, a direct link would be useful for both New Zealand and India.

“We need to progress on this and we will take up the issue during our talks with Suresh Prabhu, India’s Commerce & Industry and Civil Aviation Minister, who is due to visit New Zealand shortly. We also need to continue talks,” he said.

Historic ties

Ms Salesa traced Indo-Kiwi relations to the late 1800s when the first settlers came to New Zealand from India.

“Since then, the Indian community has been important partners in improving our diplomatic, political, economic and social relations with India. The community, which now accounts for about 155,000 people is expected to rise to more than 300,000 by 2025,” she said.

Ms Salesa said that India’s growing importance, progress of talks for a Free Trade Agreement and the growing business potential warrants a direct airlink between the two countries.

“INZBC can enhance existing and emerging opportunities,” she said.

Keeping Indians safe

Ms Salesa said that as Ethnic Communities Minister, she has the responsibility to ensure safer community, and more importantly safety of businesspeople of Indian origin.

“In May this year, we conducted the first ‘Safer Ethnic Communities Ministerial Forum,’ inaugurated by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern (Indian Newslink, June 1, 2018).

“The population of ethnic communities is rising rapidly and according to estimates, they will account for more than 22% of the population by 2038. We need to prepare ourselves for the changes coming over the years,” she said.

Serious about India

Mr Bridges said that like INZBC, the National Party is also serious about improving New Zealand-India relations.

“I am committed to FTA. Such a pact would be good for both governments, both countries and both peoples. It was the National government that started the conversation in 2010. We are therefore keen to pursue this opportunity,” he said.

Mr Bridges said that many have asked if a Free Trade Agreement would be worthwhile for India, since New Zealand is a small country of just 4.2 million people.

“It is not the size, but quality that is important. An FTA with New Zealand will enhance value for India. Commercial flights that are direct are a precursor to progress in this direction. Tourism is an important aspect of our growing relations,” he said.

Mr Bridges said that the National Party will redouble efforts to strengthen relations with India.

“We do not want to be an expensive destination but a quality destination. There is a huge amount of goodwill and friendship but there is no room for complacency. We must utilise the available potential properly and pursue greater cooperation,” he said.

Mr Bridges said the opening of the (Rainbow Corner) Early Learning Centre in Mumbai two weeks ago (see separate story under Educationlink in this issue) is a demonstration of the entrepreneurial ability of our Indian community.

Additional Reading: ‘Direct flights to India remain in the air’ under Viewlink.

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Photo Caption:

  1. Justice Minister Andrew Little
  2. Ethnic Communities Minister Jenny Salesa
  3. National Party Leader Simon Bridges

(Pictures by Creative Eye Fotographics for INZBC)

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