The direct air service between Port Moresby and Townsville, which started on March 31, was marked with the warmest welcome possible in Australia’s Tropical North.
I thank the mayor of Townsville, Jenny Hill, her council, Townsville Airport, Townsville Enterprise, the Townsville Bulletin newspaper, the business community, YWAM, and the significant number of citizens drawn from the large ‘ex-PNG’ community in Townsville, and North Queensland generally.
I also thank the Air Niugini management team, and our in-flight and ground staff, who worked in co-operation with their counterparts in Townsville to make the first flight a memorable event.
We were privileged that the prime minister, Peter O’Neill, as well as the Minister for Culture, Arts and Tourism and a delegation of government, business and community leaders, were able to join us on the flight and the subsequent engagements, where the goodwill and hospitality were so evident.
The PM delighted the community on Palm Island, off the coast of Townsville with a population of about 3000, with his visit there at the invitation of mayor Alf Lacey, who proudly announced that Peter O’Neill was the first prime minister of any country, including Australia, to visit the island community.
One important aspect of the new relationship between PNG and Townsville is the opportunities it opens for the ‘ex-PNG’ community in and around Townsville.
It was a surprise to learn that this community numbers more than 5000. Some are former PNG citizens now resident in the city, while others are Australian citizens who had lived and worked in PNG.
The establishment of regular flights between the two cities will be a boost for family reunions, family holidays and a range of other people-to-people exchanges, such as cultural events and sporting competitions. Air Niugini will offer affordable airfares to provide as much support as possible for reunions and wider community engagement.
As Air Niugini plans future regional and international expansion – to Shanghai in China, and the Marshall Islands and Kiribati in the Pacific – we will draw on the success of the inaugural service to Townsville, and the community and business engagement it is already facilitating.
Thank you, Townsville. I hope residents take the opportunity to visit PNG and take advantage of our regional hub service based out of Jacksons International Airport, which offers efficient and affordable connections to cities as diverse as Singapore, Manila, Hong Kong, Narita, Bali, Honiara, Port Vila, Nadi, Chuuk and Pohnpei.
Also contained in this issue is an excellent feature on a number of the outstanding tourism resorts in PNG, which are at the heart of our nation’s wide-ranging and growing adventure tourism sector.
The three destinations featured are in the Hela, Western Highlands and East Sepik provinces. I urge readers to consider visiting these excellent resorts, which highlight the rich diversity of the cultural and natural environment that PNG has to offer.
Air Niugini is proud of the contribution it makes, as the national airline of PNG, to the development of our tourism and hospitality sectors – a contribution we continue to enhance.
I want to commend to our business clients the excellent Business Travel Centre now fully operational and located at Waterfront Foodworld in Port Moresby. Air Niugini has developed this travel agency to meet the travel, accommodation and other needs of our business clients.
Finally, on behalf of the Air Niugini family, I welcome our second group of cadet engineers, who will have returned home in April as qualified maintenance engineers with European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) licences.
Enjoy your flight, and we look forward to welcoming you back on board very soon.
Sir Frederick Reiher, KCMG, KBE Chairman, Air Niugini Limited