The Moree to Sydney air service remains in safe hands for another two years, with QantasLink's licence extended.
Minister for Regional Transport Paul Toole and Northern Tablelands MP Adam Marshall joined Moree mayor Katrina Humphries on Wednesday night to announce the NSW government's decision to extend QantasLink's licence until March 2022.
This means the Moree to Sydney route will remain regulated, which Mr Marshall said will support the region's access to medical services, economic development and tourism opportunities.
"Locals made their preference for continued regulation loud and clear, so I'm thrilled we've been able to extend the licence to ensure Moree and the surrounding communities can continue to access Sydney via a quick flight," Mr Marshall said.
"The air transport licence was initially awarded to QantasLink in 2018 for a two-year term, and the community has been vocal since then of the need to keep a regulated service between Sydney to Moree.
"This route is one of two in NSW that will remain regulated, and the license will remain the same as it has been operating for the past two years.
"With the deadline for the licence renewal fast approaching I wanted to lock QuantasLink into the route to give certainty to business operators who have been battling through drought and now the COVID-19 pandemic.
"I want to acknowledge QuantasLink for the work it has done reinstating flights back into Moree following the pandemic shutdown.
"Following the two-year extension, Transport for NSW will consult with the community again and conduct an open licensing process for the following licence term."
Mr Toole said Moree Plains Shire was an agricultural centre for NSW and the continued availability of an air service to Sydney was critical for locals and business.
"We know this air service really matters to the community," he said.
"Adam and Moree Plains Shire Council have been working hard to ensure it continues and I'm glad we've been able to reach a decision that continues to benefit people living in the bush.
"QantasLink will continue to make decisions on the timetable, frequency of services and the aircraft which will be used over the remaining years of the contract."
QantasLink CEO John Gissing said as the national carrier, they understand the importance of reliable air travel for regional communities.
"We're pleased to be continuing our long-standing flights from Sydney to Moree, in partnership with the NSW Government," he said.
"These services will ensure Moree continues to be just a short flight away from Australia's largest city, providing key connectivity for tourists, businesses and visitors."
Cr Humphries said the announcement was welcome news for the entire community.
"Earlier this year, the return of regular flights into Moree was a major life line to our rural economy and tourism sector," she said.
"Our farmers, local businesses, pubs, motel operators and everybody in between has been feeling the stress from the ongoing drought which has been strangling our community for the past few years. The second blow of COVID-19, restricted operations of many businesses and even forced many to close their doors for a period of time.
"On behalf of the Moree and district community I thank Transport NSW for this licence extension.
"Our relationship with Qantas has always been rock solid, we appreciate having an air service in these difficult times and look forward to continuing this relationship."