News State QLD News Queensland’s enticing pitch to sun-starved Kiwi travellers
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Queensland’s enticing pitch to sun-starved Kiwi travellers

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Queensland is in talks to restart direct flights from New Zealand to regional destinations as the state deals with dozens of COVID-19 cases.

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said the talks were aimed at fast-tracking cross-Tasman flights when the travel bubble between the two countries opens on April 19.

The priority will be direct flights from NZ to regional tourist destinations.

It’s understood Ms Palaszczuk is keen for flights to resume to places like Cairns, Townsville and Proserpine, the air hub for the Whitsundays.

“We’re negotiating with airlines to fast-track the return of direct flights from New Zealand to regional Queensland,” the Premier said on Twitter on Wednesday morning.

“More flights means more business for tourism operators, so we’re working to get this done as soon as possible.”

The state government is expected to provide more details about the talks later on Wednesday.

The announcement came as Queensland hospitals treat dozens of COVID-19 cases amid an outbreak in greater Brisbane.

Widespread testing is still underway in the region, which was locked down for three days last week to halt the spread.

Queensland Health said the state’s hospitals were treating 70 active virus cases on Tuesday.

Authorities also announced that a dual Papua New Guinean-British national had died from COVID-19 complications in Redcliffe Hospital on March 29.

He was 77-year-old Mal “Kela” Smith, the former governor of PNG’s Eastern Highlands province.

Mr Smith was a helicopter pilot in the Australian Defence Force and was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for gallantry during a medevac operation in the Vietnam War in 1970.

He founded the Pacific Helicopter Group and was also chair of the Goroka Hospital Board.

mal smith covid
Mr Smith was a former governor of a PNG province, and a decorated war hero. Photo: Kela Foundation

Mr Smith then founded the Kela Foundation in 2017 to support underprivileged and disadvantaged communities.

Central Province Governor Robert Agarobe said it was sad his “dear friend” had died from COVID-19 complications.

“My aviation life with Malcolm Kela Smith was a Love and Hate relationship as competitors and we had our moments however, we were best of friends who shared more then a few beers togather [sic] and assisted each other in times of need when it came to work,” he wrote on Facebook.

“We both had the out most [sic] respect for each other as brothers and Aviators.

“A THOUGH (sic) BUGGER, A TRUE AVIATOR AND A LEGEND.”

-AAP