Flight service between Nelson and Blenheim to be trialled as SH6 is repaired

A flight service between Nelson and Blenheim to be trialled as SH6 is repaired
A flight service between Nelson and Blenheim to be trialled as SH6 is repaired Photo credit: Origin Air


A flight service between Nelson and Blenheim will be trialled for two weeks while State Highway Six is closed for emergency flood repairs.

Nelson mayor elect Nick Smith announced the Originair service today and said it would be extended for the full seven week road closure if the trial showed there was sufficient demand.

He said the state highway was a critical link between Nelson and Marlborough used by around 4000 vehicles a day.

Many of those were health professionals who worked across both regions.

Mayor Smith said he initiated the service with after Te Whatu Ora - Nelson Marlborough staff expressed concerns about how they would maintain full services while the highway was closed.

Originair will run a morning and evening return air service between Nelson and Blenheim, with a flight time of 20 minutes, to help people affected by the closure of SH6.

Smith said the alternative route through the Wairau Valley extended the trip by a hour, taking two hours and 40 minutes.

Flights will cost $89 for a standard one-way fare or $99 for a flexifare that is changeable and refundable.

He said both Nelson and Marlborough airports had waived their landing fees and there would be a $10 per seat subsidy from the Mayoral Relief Fund of up to $10,000.

Te Whatu Ora Health New Zealand Nelson Marlborough interim district director Lexie O'Shea said its workforce operated as one 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."

O'Shea said where clinically appropriate, services would switch to telehealth or virtual consults during the road closure, reducing the need for travel.

A flight team would continue to transfer urgent and acute patients around the country when they needed treatment, but it was not designed to transfer staff between Nelson and Blenheim.

"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."

Originair chief executive 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."

The service will be provided by an 18-seater Jetstream twin-turbo prop-pressurised aircraft operated by a two-pilot crew.

Flights will leave Nelson at 7.40am and arrive in Blenheim at 8.10am, return from Blenheim at 8.40am and arrive in Nelson at 9.10am. Then in the afternoon flights will leave Nelson at 4pm, arrive Blenheim at 4.30pm and return from Blenheim at 5pm and arrive in Nelson at 5.30pm.