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ALOFI, Niue (October 9, 2000 - Niue Economic Review/PINA Nius Online)---The Cook Islands has a second internal air service, competition for Air Rarotonga.

Prime Enterprises and Vincent Aviation of New Zealand have been granted an air services license for six months to prove that their service will work and, above all, be safe.

Granted by Transport Minister Dr. Robert Woonton, the license is on a trial basis, "but is great because it suits our purpose perfectly," says Prime Enterprises' Pae Puna. "That will allow us six months to set the business up, but it does not prevent us from setting up the business proper."

Prime Enterprises is now completing clearances that should see the first weeklong trial flights beginning November 19. That first flight by a 12-seater Cessna 406 will culminate three years of planning.

The venture will operate two Cessna 406s, owned by Vincent Aviation.

Puna says the joint venture between them and Kiwi pilot Peter Vincent would mean the revival of a trading system once practiced by Cook Islands forefathers. But instead of ocean voyaging canoes transporting goods for barter between the remote islands, the Cessnas will enable freight to be transported quickly on a daily basis.

That would see prized Mangaia taro being flown north to Manihiki, which cannot grow the staple and makes do with rice. But Manihiki has plenty of seafood, such as paua, that's hard to get in other islands.

Mitiaro in the southern group is the only island with a lake full of itiki (fresh water eels) but no way of exporting them fresh in large quantities.

Just some examples of an abundance of inter-island trading that can happen, says Puna.

There are no plans at present to compete with Air Rarotonga in the tourist industry.

For additional reports from the Niue Economic Review, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Magazines/Journals/Niue Economic Review.

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