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Flight path no. 20

After the thaw

Fiji [FIJI AIRWAYS]

Route: Wellington to Nadi
Airline: Fiji Airways
Plane: Boeing 737-800
Frequency: Twice weekly

When a coup in 2006 saw veteran army officer Frank Bainimarama seize power in Fiji, New Zealand cut ties with the island nation. However with Bainimarama relinquishing his position as military leader to run for – and win – last September’s election to become the island’s legitimate prime minister, the two sides are gingerly rebuilding their former friendship. Sanctions have been eased and New Zealand returned its high commissioner to the country. Earlier in January the New Zealand air force helped patrol Fiji’s waters.

The thawing of frosty relations has come at a opportune time for Fiji Airways. Starting at the end of May, one of the carrier’s Boeing 737-800s will ferry passengers between Wellington and Nadi every Thursday and Sunday. The permanent direct service has a weekly capacity of 328 and takes less than four hours each way.

New Zealand is Fiji’s second-largest tourist market after Australia. Besides facilitating swift weekend escapes to tropical sandy beaches for Wellingtonians, Fiji hopes the twice-weekly addition to its roster of flights will also give Nadi International Airport a competitive edge as a transit point for passengers en route to LA and other US cities.

Fiji Airways is also bolstering flight paths to key New Zealand cities such as Christchurch and Auckland. But like the region’s famously unpredictable weather, it’s tough to forecast the political climate, which invariably affects trade and Fiji Airways’ viability as a carrier (although Qantas owns a large minority stake).

“Fiji Airways is a solid small carrier, which made a nice profit last year, but it relies on tourism,” says Greg Waldron, Asia managing editor at aviation news and information website flightglobal.com. “To be a profitable small airline you have to be at least 80 per cent full on every flight but when you have trouble, people stop flying.”

Q&A- Senator Christine Milne

Party leader, The Australian Greens

Canberra

With Australia’s two major political parties united on sending troops to Iraq and the offshore processing of asylum seekers, the Greens continue to grow as a party for left-leaning voters. Senator Christine Milne has been the Australian Greens’ leader since 2012.

What is the political objective of the Greens?
Australia is the home of Green politics and it’s wonderful to be in a place where this movement started. The four principles on which the Greens are founded are ecological sustainability, social justice, peace, non-violence, and participatory democracy.

Are the objectives of Australia’s two major political parties too closely aligned?
They are Tweedledee and Tweedledum when it comes to most policies. Labor under Julia Gillard did move on global warming but they are hamstrung now because they are in lockstep with the new government over the massive expansion of coal-seam gas, new coal mines and coal exports.

You’ve criticised the government’s handling of asylum seekers. What would the Greens’ approach be? There really needs to be a regional approach. We need more proactive investment in the UN for the UNHCR in Indonesia to help with processing people. We’ve seen Australia go from being a good global citizen to one that is thumbing its nose at international law.

Match fit

New Zealand [SPORT]

New Zealand may be better known for its rugby-playing All Blacks than its footballing All Whites. However, this month Kiwis may be persuaded to consider switching their affections from the oval-shaped ball to the round one as the country prepares to host football’s under-20 World Cup.

New Zealand enjoyed a 5 per cent increase in tourism spend when it hosted the Rugby World Cup in 2011. Although the football tournament is unlikely to provide a similar economic spike, officials hope it will again prove that the country has what it takes to host major sporting events. Football fans believe it could also help boost a game that still lags behind not just rugby but cricket too.

Firing blanks

Australia [PEST CONTROL]

Contraceptive darts will be deployed in the fight against the overpopulation of kangaroos in Australian capital Canberra. Car accidents in the city involving kangaroos are increasing and a population spike is damaging the area’s ecosystem. The state government is working with national science agency csiro to trial a solution: firing darts laced with contraception.

“A single injection gives long-term infertility of up to at least six years,” says Dr Lyn Hinds from csiro. “This form of fertility control is as humane and cost-effective as anything else available at the moment.”

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