Under strict health and safety requirements, NZB Airfreight has successfully completed a test flight with a small pool of horses from Auckland to Sydney.
With new regulations and plans in place for grooms, New Zealand Bloodstock can confidently begin to work on limited flights for the backlog of horses requiring trans-Tasman travel.
The test flight was conducted with all grooms and travelling staff in full personal protective equipment, including overalls, masks and gloves, with loading and unloading completed by a separate bubble of handlers to avoid any potential spread of the Covid-19 virus.
All horses were from the same property, using only one horse float for transport to the airport and one vet for the inspections and pre-flight checks, allowing complete control over horse and human movements and detailed contact tracing recorded.
The strong working relationship with Tasman Cargo Airlines staff and pilots has made it possible for the planning process to get underway for future flights.
“We were rapt with the result of the test flight,” NZB airfreight manager Greg Northcott said.
“Our grooms are probably used to quarantine because we have quarantine flights. It shows the professionalism of the industry and the people we have got.
“All of the grooms had to have negative Covid-19 tests before they were allowed on the plane and when they come back to New Zealand they have to remain in their bubble.”
While NZB Airfreight are working on opening all ports for equine freight, services in the near future will only be possible via Auckland and Sydney and return until government Alert Levels are eased to a Level 2 or lower.
The major challenge for New Zealand Bloodstock’s subsidiary will be the movement of grooms and staff internationally and the return of the horse stalls that are currently overseas, with limited cargo services to ship these.
“There is a backlog in excess of 200 horses requiring trans-Tasman transport in the coming weeks, while there will be some owners happy to wait for more Australian and New Zealand ports to open up once the Alert Levels are reduced,” Northcott said.
“Horses that fly to Sydney can travel by road to their end destination in Australia under the current guidelines.”
NZB are working closely with all regulatory bodies, airlines and governments around the world to get travel lines open to as many major racing jurisdictions as possible.
“It is still a bit early to comment as to when routes to Hong Kong, Singapore and Macau will be open, but we are hopeful we will have a clearer picture in the next month or so,” Northcott said. – NZ Racing Desk