Air New Zealand chair Tony Carter said he has written to Minister of Finance Grant Robertson to underline the airline’s independence from the Crown after Regional Economic Development Minister Shane Jones lamented its decision to axe regional routes.
“Any appearance of a lack of commercial independence is viewed seriously by the Air New Zealand board and is ultimately potentially damaging to the interests of all shareholders, including the Crown,” Carter said in an emailed statement.
That follows an NZME report that Jones told Air NZ regional affairs manager Ian Collier “don’t keep closing down regional air links. And take that message to your supervisors”.
Jones reportedly made the comments at the Bay of Islands Airport after Air NZ said it will stop flying to Paraparaumu on the Kapiti coast north of Wellington, having axed flights to Kaitaia in 2015.
The Crown owns 51 percent of Air NZ and is represented by shareholding ministers Robertson and Winston Peters, as minister for state-owned enterprises. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern sought to diffuse the situation, saying that while ministers have opinions her government has no intention of taking away the airline’s independent decision-making.
Carter said the Crown’s shareholding “gives it equal rights to all other ordinary shareholders.”
Air NZ shares rose 0.2 percent to $3.375 and have gained 5.6 percent this year.