The Herald reports:
Regional Economic Development Minister Shane Jones has given a blunt warning to Air New Zealand to stop shutting down its regional air links.
The extraordinary censure from the NZ First MP came during last Friday’s announcement that the Government was stumping up $1.75 million towards the $4.75m cost of building a new terminal at Bay of Islands Airport near Kerikeri.
Striding towards Air NZ’s regional affairs manager, Ian Collier, Jones said ”terminal” was a fitting word for the warning he was about to deliver.
”Don’t keep closing down regional air links. And take that message to your supervisors.”
”They’ve just ditched Kapiti, Kaitaia is gone with the wind … While Air New Zealand has become very skilled at moving people around our major metropolitan areas, I think it is quite irresponsible of them to continue to degrade their provincial connectivity.”
As a champion for the regions he was ”absolutely” within his rights to challenge Air New Zealand, which was still Crown-owned to a significant degree, he said.
Air NZ will fly to anywhere they can make a profit. If there are not enough people wanting to fly to or from a destination, then that is not the fault of Air New Zealand.
If the Government thinks that there should be flights to low population areas, then the correct thing to do would be to subsidize them, not to bully Air New Zealand.
But personally I think there are far better use of taxpayers dollars than subsidising air passengers.
He continued his attack this morning, setting his sights on airline chairman Tony Carter.
“Obviously you’d start with the chairman … I’m telling that board, in terms of the growth and connectivity in provincial New Zealand, it will not increase unless that board changes,” Jones told Radio NZ.
Jones also warned Air NZ chief executive Christopher Luxon to butt out of politics.
“Do not poke your nose into the political boxing ring unless you’re going to resign today and join the ranks of the National Party. This is a legitimate issue on behalf of those provincial areas who have been shortchanged. I’ve said all along, my focus is on the board.”
Following his comments yesterday that Air NZ had put company profit before the regions, Jones said the Air NZ board should look at a different profit model.
“If they are unwilling to adapt the model to deal with the degradation of provincial connectivity in aerial routes, then they’re not serving the purpose of the majority shareholder.”
Jones is ignorant of company law. He is demanding the Chairman and CEO resign for not acting illegally.
Directors are obliged to act in the interests of the company, not any one shareholder – even a majority one. If they were to do what he demands, they would be disadvantaging the tens of thousands of other shareholders. They would be in breach of the Companies Act.
Labour will be furious with Jones and NZ First. They want media to be reporting on the Government’s achievements but instead the last fortnight has been dominated by three out of the four NZ First Ministers generating negative headlines.
- Winston over defending Russia
- Ron Mark over his use of RNZAF flights
- Shane Jones over Air New Zealand
The only NZ First Minister not generating negative headlines is Tracey Martin.