Fear of flying is a killer. I used to do the train -> ferry -> train which took 13 hours to get from the Netherlands to where I'm from in England. I'm not over it, but for the last few trips I've flown - the flight is 1 hour.
You're lucky to have the option! The isolation here is a killer - a boat trip to the nearest land takes a lot of time, and is through the southern ocean (not a friendly place). Somehow I've managed the trip to the UK five times (that's ten 24-hour flights, folks), but the fear has been getting progressively worse rather than better. Now even an hour long flight seems too much. Three + hours to Melbourne... hmmm, John, are you worth it?!? I think maybe he is! But better still if he decides to check out NZ while he's over in this part of the world.