The deterioration of air services to NZ's regions has been a hot topic of late thanks to Regional Economic Development Minister Shane Jones.

The outspoken minister has been critical of Air New Zealand accusing the national carrier of neglecting our provinces.

But where Air NZ has left, another airline Air Chathams has moved in to fill the void.

The Māori owned airline has grown from humble beginnings but its key ethos hasn't changed, and that's to keep rural communities connected.        

Duane Emeny of Ngāti Mutunga has been GM of Air Chatham for the last 13 years, climbing the ranks as a junior pilot to now owning the company.

He says keeping rural communities connected is very important.

“Really when it comes to regional growth having a direct link to some of NZ's largest centre's is essential we see that so we match the right aircraft type for those communities.”

Air Chathams flies to regions with high Māori populations such as Whanganui, Whakatāne, Chatham Islands and Auckland.

Emeny also says that to develop the company is more of a key focus.

“We are currently assessing our ability to provide a service for Kapiti. We think there's a lot of parallels between that and the Whanganui service so it’s a great period of growth for the airline and at the same time were very aware of where we've come from.”

The company kick-started in 1984 on the Chatham Islands and Emeny believes that it’s important for iwi voice to be heard in any consultations.

“Ultimately I’m a true believer that iwi has a very important part to play in development to their communities and that’s certainly the case with Ngāti Mutunga.”

At this current stage, Air Chathams is looking ahead at getting a Kapiti airport up and running to keep rural communities connected.

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