First in Flight

Nelson’s Ngati Koata has become the first Maori tribe to venture into the airline industry. The iwi aims to launch a Nelson-based passenger charter service in the next three to four months, and has further plans for an airline freight operation. “We are starting off small and getting into the aviation industry in a conservative manner,” said Ngati Koata Trust CEO Caron Paul, who will also be acting CEO of the yet-to-be-named airline. The Trust has leased two 18-seat aircraft that were previously owned by Origin Pacific Airways, a NZ regional carrier that closed in September last year. Ngati Koata Trust is the legal entity representing more than 5,000 iwi members. Its business interests include a ship repair yard, a furniture manufacturing company and a health and social services arm. The Trust recently announced plans for another new and potentially lucrative business – making and selling biodiesel to the local fishing industry, motorists and manufacturers.

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