A new air traffic control tower officially opened today in Nelson, will likely be one of the last bricks and mortar towers in the country as the industry moves to digital technology.
The $6 million control tower, built by Airways, complements a $32 million development of Nelson Airport, by the airport company.
The 22-metre high tower will replace a smaller one that has been operating since 1974.
Airways' chief executive Graeme Sumner said it would support more than 46,000 flights in and out of the region every year.
"It's a facility fit for one of New Zealand's busiest regional aerodromes and has been designed to underpin Nelson Airport's growth with continued safe and efficient air traffic services," he said.
Last July Nelson Airport celebrated the first year it had recorded one million passengers over a 12-month period.
Nelson Airport chief executive Rob Evans said at the time it made Nelson the country's fifth busiest airport, and busier than Dunedin.
Nelson, which relied heavily on aviation, was one of the country's largest cargo hubs outside of Auckland and on average operated almost 700 flights to and from Nelson each week, he said.
The Nelson tower was likely to be the last one built, as the industry moved towards digital technology, Mr Sumner said.
"We're confident that digital tower technology now has the capability to provide greater aviation safety and resiliency," he said.
"The technology also provides greater opportunities to extend services in New Zealand's regions."
Invercargill will be the first airport to launch a digital tower in 2020 and a contingency digital tower will also be in place in Auckland by 2020.
Nelson air traffic controllers are in final training before the new tower goes live on Sunday.
By Tracy Neal