Flying high, or flying under the radar: How proximity to an airport can impact a town and its residents' well-being

Jul 26, 2023 8:39:34 AM / by Andrew Smith


Major international airports and the cities they serve are often intwined in our collective consciousness (think Heathrow and London, or JFK and New York).  However, as anyone who has travelled on budget airlines in Europe can attest to, the distance between airports and the cities they purport to be serving can often be many, MANY miles. 

This can be pretty frustrating for rookie travellers, but is actually largely avoidable, particularly if you’re already in continental Europe, as the rail system there is excellent with rail stations right in the heart of the cities you’re looking to get to.

With that said, if you’re going to visit another country, then most people’s default move would still be to “book a flight” - it seems almost reflexive - but with a number of countries in Europe actually having no commercial airport at all – that comprehensive rail network really comes into its own.

Indeed, with France recently implementing a ban on short haul domestic flights in order to cut emissions, a strong, connected rail network becomes imperative.

Sadly, the term “strong connected rail network” is not one that readily springs to mind when we think of New Zealand.

Here in Godzone, we don’t really have intercity rail services, rather we rely on road infrastructure, seaports and airports, and in New Zealand’s vast unpopulated landscape, the distance between towns and the closest significant transport hub or connection can vary significantly.  

Particularly when it comes to airports.

Airports can serve as vital transportation hubs, facilitating the movement of people and goods, attracting businesses, and boosting tourism. Towns with nearby airports therefore have a competitive advantage when it comes to attracting investment, industries, and visitors. The ease of accessibility strongly contributes to a town’s economic well-being, fostering growth and development.

On the other hand, towns located far from airports will often miss out on the economic opportunities associated with airports and air travel. Limited accessibility deters businesses from establishing themselves in these areas, resulting in reduced economic growth (not to mention diminished employment, education, and healthcare outcomes).  

Additionally, attracting visitors becomes more difficult, further limiting commercial opportunity and the life enriching cultural exchange that tourism can provide.

All of which is to say, that access to infrastructure and amenities can play a crucial role in determining the social well-being of communities, and for remote towns in New Zealand the distance to the nearest airport can be a really a significant factor.

This got the NationalMap team thinking about where our most remote towns are located in terms of airport connections.  Our latest infographic highlights the huge distance some of these towns are from their nearest airport.

Airports with Frame

There is little doubt that there’s a strong case for prioritising accessibility and connectivity as the catalyst for more equitable growth and development across New Zealand’s more remote towns and regions. 

Which means it should be an essential consideration for government agencies tasked with producing policies that promote social well-being.

While we have covered similar topics in previous blog posts, we’ve definitely noticed a recent and significant uptick in interest in our Points of Interest (POI) dataset from government agencies (and other organisations) involved with informing policy on social well-being.

The increased interest is gratifying, as we are spending more and more time curating our growing Points of Interest (POI) dataset, indeed, as at July 2023, there were 9,372 Commercial POI’s that have been captured in total, across 14 different categories.

So, if your work entails analysing or improving social well-being at a government agency, or if you just believe your business operations can be helped by deploying NationalMap POI data and solutions, then get in touch with us today.


Topics: roads and transport data, POIs, Location Data