Vintage Aviator Ltd, which is planned to feature as part of the aviation centre. PHOTO/FILE

BECKIE WILSON
beckie.wilson@age.co.nz

A multi-million-dollar vintage aviation centre and museum is at the heart of plans to boost tourism in the region.

The development of a world-class visitor attraction at Masterton’s Hood Aerodrome has been in the works for the past four years and is now ready to be taken to the next step, the National Aviation Centre Trust chairman Bob Francis says.

The Wairarapa Economic Development Strategy launched on Monday night, focuses on several key areas in the region needing a boost including a high-tech hub, water, air services and tourism, and Francis said the aviation centre tied in nicely with the strategy’s goals.

Over the past four years the trust had raised $100,000 to fund feasibility studies and investigations into similar facilities around the world, he said.

The centre is expected to have many elements, including interactive displays that visitors can be engaged with, and will link in with the Vintage Aviator Ltd, owned by Sir Peter Jackson, which already has a substantial operation at Hood Aerodrome.

The company owns a large number of vintage aircraft and runs regular flying weekends.

Working together with the trust, the World War I aircraft collection will be on display at the new centre.

The plan is for it to complement the aerodrome, and Wings Over Wairarapa.

“We are aiming for something at the top end and something this region can be proud of, which will attract international visitors.”

Masterton District Council had been supportive of the project, and 12 months ago especially purchased a 4ha piece of land that neighbours the aerodrome, Francis said.

“That’s been a real positive and given us confidence to move forward,” he said.

Francis said the finer detail and concept of the centre was yet to be finalised but significant work was planned to be done within the next 12 months.

“It is ambitious, but we are going to give it a go,” Francis said. “It’s pretty exciting.” The trust has signed on Select Contracts, a Canadian attraction developer and operator, to support the centre.

“We are excited to be involved at such an early stage of this event which has the potential to become a key attraction for Wairarapa and the wider Wellington region,” Select Contracts regional director Darron Charity said.

Former Labour education minister Steve Maharey, who put the strategy together, said it was pleasing to see traction already being made in some key areas of focus.

“News that an agreement has been reached over developing a significant aviation-focused visitor attraction at Hood Aerodrome is a positive milestone,” he said.