Work is set to begin on extending Rotorua Airport and direct flights between the city and Australia could be operating by June next year.
Rotorua District Council announced on Wednesday that Fulton Hogan will take charge of the $8.4 million contract and begin work on the project in a few weeks.
Mayor Kevin Winters says long-haul international tourism is suffering from the current global economic meltdown.
Mr Winters says short-haul trans-Tasman tourism business will grow and play an increasingly vital part in the city's future economic growth.
He says the council has yet to confirm which international carrier will service the route, but several airlines have been approached and expressed an interest in the project.