To: Rt Hon Jacinda Ardern, Prime Minister 
From: The Otago and Southland regional HUB of Chambers of Commerce

Copied to: Rt Hon Winston Peters, Deputy Prime Minister Hon Kelvin Davis, Minister of Tourism Hon Grant Robertson, Minister of Finance Hon Phil Twyford, Minister of Transport and Economic Development Hon Dr Megan Woods, Minister of Energy and Resources Hon Shane Jones, Minister for Regional Economic Development 

5 May 2020

Dear Prime Minister,

We thank you in advance for considering this letter. There is no doubt that we as a nation of 5 million have done a great job in flattening the curve of COVID-19 and collectively we commend the coalition  government for largely taking the steps needed to protect the health of our nation.

While we agree we should not get complacent, we do believe that the economic success of our regions will rely on how quickly we can get people moving around again – safely of course.

Businesses across New Zealand are hurting and need to know that they will be able to do more business at Level 2, especially in the Southern Lakes where a large percentage of our businesses rely solely on international tourism.

Travel and tourism businesses are most affected by the current situation and most in need of safe domestic operation at Level 2. Without domestic operations for air travel, New Zealand’s tourism businesses will be wound up well before the international border is able to be re-opened.  Many businesses we hear from are willing to pivot to a domestic market, we just need to get people moving to meet the supply.

The situation for domestic travel is urgent

  • Wage subsidies will give, at most, another six weeks cover before redundancy, closure, receivership
  • Travel and tourism businesses need to be able to start taking domestic winter bookings now
  • Regional airlines depend on regional travel and will not survive under current settings
  • If safe domestic travel is not allowable in level two, the entire domestic tourism industry is at risk. 

Social connections need to be re-built.  Families and friends often depend on air travel for social cohesion and well-being.  This needs to open up across New Zealand under Level 2.

Re-deployment of employees- Many tourism workers made redundant due to COVID-19 in the region could be re-deployed to other much needed workforces in other regions. Safe, affordable and reliable air travel is requited to ensure we can re-deploy people quickly.

We know that travel on aircraft is safe, and contact tracing is possible, as it is on other forms of shared transport. This is why travel on aircraft and other forms of transport will be allowable at Level 2 and Level 1. We know that travel by private car will be possible at Level 2 and Level 1 being bubble specific.

We know that businesses reliant on travel can operate safely, from accommodation to hospitality to ski fields, operating using contact tracing.

We are confident in the information we have that airports and airlines are working together to ensure safe movement of passengers throughout the journey.

What is the rationale for not operating these safe businesses? If at Level 2 you can visit a business in your region and sign in for contact tracing purposes, why is it you cannot catch an aircraft where you are also traceable, to another region and visit a regional business where you are also traceable?  What is the risk when New Zealand has negligible community transmission? 

  • Aviation processes are highly controlled, safe and can contact trace.
  • Businesses can be safely operated and can contact trace across all regions
  • We have negligible community transmission.

On this basis we believe the domestic travel and tourism sector can be carefully re-opened and minimise the permanent loss of jobs and businesses.

Allow safe travel. Allow safe tourism. Allow our regions to survive.

Yours sincerely,


Pete Eastwood, Chair Ignite Wanaka Chamber of Commerce


Queenstown Chamber of Commerce


Sheree Carey, CEO Southland Chamber of Commerce


Otago Chamber of Commerce


Click here to see the full signed letter.