12 Sep 2006

Cooks alarmed at possible loss of US air link

4:05 pm on 12 September 2006

The Cook Islands government says it is viewing the possible end of Air New Zealand's flights to the country from the United States with extreme gravity.

The caretaker deputy prime minister, Dr Terepai Maoate, says Tourism Cook Islands and Air New Zealand are holding talks and all options are on the table.

Dr Maoate says if the flights are to be dropped, then the government wants to hold immediate discussions with the New Zealand government - the main shareholder of Air New Zealand.

He says ending the US flights would be very damaging for the Cook Islands tourism industry.

Dr Maoate says the government has created an environment to encourage tourism growth and it doesn't want to see a melt down of these efforts.

He says the government worked hard to ensure the US reality show, Survivor, was filmed on location in Aitutaki, and is expecting it to bring in many more visitors from North America.

The Chamber of Commerce President, Teresa Manarangi-Trott, says they view the reports with major concern.

She says people have been investing based on what they thought was a long-term commitment by Air New Zealand.