New Zealand businessman Mike Pero has blamed a lack of support from the Cook Islands government as having been “the last straw” that spurred his decision to cancel plans for his start-up Pasifika Air (Christchurch).

Although not the only reason for his decision, Pero told Cook Island News of bureaucratic hurdles encountered: “It was one of eight factors, but it was the last straw. I am a businessman first and foremost and have proven that I can build multi-million dollar revenues from less than an acorn,” he said. “I do struggle with bureaucracy – it often moves too slow and too cautiously. Not always a bad thing but often it is too slow to get things done with any cost efficiencies or profitability."

As earlier reported, rebranded from Jet Raro (Christchurch), Pasifika Air started its certification drive on December 1, 2020, originally hoping to launch in May or June 2021, with thrice-weekly premium services from each of Christchurch and Wellington to Rarotonga on the Cook Islands.

In April, Pero said he had shelved his plans indefinitely, blaming delays in establishing a quarantine-free travel bubble between New Zealand and the Cook Islands.

However, on May 18, Pero informed ch-aviation that Pasifika Air was “back on deck again and proceeding with some pace to a start date in October”. He promised updates this month (June 2021), by when he expected to have signed a lease agreement with a lessor in Dublin. This followed after the Civil Aviation Authority of New Zealand on May 10 informed ch-aviation by email that Pasifika Air’s certification application was on hold.

On June 19, Pero told Cook Island News that while Prime Minister Mark Brown, as well as the islands' tourism, agriculture, and transport departments had been supportive, there had been “a clear message” from the Ministry of Finance and Economic Management that there would be no financial support forthcoming.

Pero said if it had gone ahead, Pasifika Air would have brought in 120 passengers per flight, on 12 planned flights a week, representing 74,000 passengers annually. This would have brought NZD150 million New Zealand dollars (USD104.8 million) into the country annually. He suggested half of these passengers would have been first-time visitors to the Cook Islands.