A new regional flight between Auckland and Invercargill is being touted as an opportunity for the Southland region's exporting.
Air New Zealand chief executive officer Christopher Luxon was on yesterday evening's first flight along with Invercargill Mayor Sir Tim Shadbolt.
Regional development minister Shane Jones told TVNZ1's Breakfast today the new Air New Zealand route would play an important role in getting Southland's commodities moving.
"There's a lot of product down here, there's a lot of export product - it doesn't all have to go via the shipping industry," he said.
"They've got fresh produce from a variety of sources and this new flight will play an important part in that regard and also move people around - the hearty Southlanders and the tourists."
It comes as the region also celebrates Invercargill receiving a $19.5 million Provincial Growth Fund boost as part of a multi-million-dollar development scheme for the city.
The early injection of funding, in the form of a loan, is part of a $165 million project to redevelop an entire block in the Invercargill city centre for retail, hospitality, office space and entertainment.
Mr Jones told Breakfast the development would "reinvigorate the heart of Invercargill", adding it had been "wary and fatigued".
The Southland people were "pleased as punch" about the announcement last night, Mr Jones said. He expects it will create 500 jobs, with another several hundred that will flow from the hospitality and retail sector.
"They have identified this as their major proposal and we have funded it."
Work is expected to begin by the end of the year on the new development, and Mr Jones said he hopes to be there to "press the button that swings the first ball of destruction on these wearied and fatigued buildings".