Cook Islands does not offer waivers or discounts on landing fee for travel out of New Zealand, says Prime Minister Mark Brown, after businessman Mike Pero pulled the plug on Pasifika Air due to ‘lack of government support’.
Prime Minister Mark Brown took a swing at the Cook Islands
News in Parliament last week, saying he was “surprised and very disappointed”
at the paper’s coverage of Mike Pero’s failure to get an airline off the
“To put it mildly, I was surprised and very disappointed to
read the Cook Islands News story suggesting that Mike Pero pulled the plug on
Pasifika Air because he couldn’t get a waiver or discount on landing fees at
our international airport,” Brown said.
“Especially as he told me himself that there were eight
factors which prevented him from moving ahead with the proposed airline at this
“Pero has thanked me for the support I gave the proposal…
and apologised for the spin CI News took highlighting one factor without
mentioning the other seven.”
Pero told the Cook Islands News that he would not comment
further on the matter.
Earlier this month Pero told the newspaper he pulled the
plug on the proposed airline for eight reasons, one of them being a lack of
enthusiasm from the Cook Islands government. He did not reveal the other seven
Pero said New Zealand airports were willing to provide the
airline with free landing fees for an average of two years but the Cook Islands
government offered only one month.
Pero said the lack of government support was “quite hurtful”
and “the most disappointing” reason why Pasifika Air didn’t get off the ground.
He emphasised “the Cook Islands Government was not the
primary reason for us not proceeding – it was one of eight factors but it was
the last straw.”
“In New Zealand, there was a huge willingness for the
airline to succeed, to the extent New Zealand airports were prepared to invest
millions of dollars in the way of credits to help get this venture off the
ground,” Pero said.
“Yet in the Cook Islands, I felt there was not the same
willingness. Not the same willingness to work with us and it was a huge blow.”
During Parliament, PM Brown said Pero had been in discussion
with numerous government agencies including the Airport Authority and Ministry
of Finance and Economic Management (MFEM) on commercial matters relating to
“Mr Pero asked the Airport Authority for a landing fee
exemption of one to two years.
“The authority agreed to a one-month exemption, 50 per cent
discount on the second month, 25 per cent off the third, with full landing fees
applying from the fourth month onwards,” Brown said.
“The current landing fee for flights ex New Zealand is $1800
per flight, less than $10 per passenger.”
Brown said: “Our policy to date has been that we don’t offer
waivers or discounts on landing fee for travel out of New Zealand. And if we
did it for one air carrier, to be fair and even-handed, we would have to do the
same for all carriers coming in.”
Speaking to the New Zealand Herald last week, Pero said the
“reference to only $10 per passenger may not sound much but that is a million
dollars a year just to land in Rarotonga”.
Pero told The Herald, Air New Zealand paid little in the way
of fees when they started flying to the Cook Islands, while Virgin (and Pacific
Blue, prior) got start-up concessions.
PM Brown said: “Mr Pero met with MFEM on only one occasion
and to date he has not provided them with a business case or any actual
“Mr Pero never clearly articulated to MFEM exactly what
support he was hoping to get from the Cook Islands government.
“This government does not invest in any initiatives be they
start-ups or existing, without proper analysis and well-developed financials.”
Pero aimed to fly Pasifika Air later this year as part of a
Cook Islands travel bubble with New Zealand.