“Parliament is quite rightly this afternoon urgently debating a letter from Finance Minister Grant Robertson to the chair of Air New Zealand that has more than the whiff of Rob Muldoon about it,” says ACT Leader David Seymour.
“I requested this debate because Grant Robertson’s letter shows an interventionist streak that will send shock waves through Air New Zealand and other companies.
“One of New Zealand’s most eminent business journalists, Fran O’Sullivan of the NZ Herald, who has covered the aviation sector more closely than any of her peers, summed the letter up in three words; she called it ‘a real shocker.’
“And she’s spot on. Robertson’s letter, which announced his intention to become an ‘active majority shareholder’ in Air New Zealand was so unwise he should rescind it.
“He might have well have said activist instead of active, given the untenable list of competing demands he has placed on the airline’s board of directors.
“Not that the present board will be around for long if Robertson leans into the company as he suggests he will in his missive. One of those demands is his intention to involve himself appointing board members.
“This is a huge departure from his 2018 letter of approach to the airline and other companies the Government is majority shareholder of, which endorsed previous letters stating that the Government wouldn’t look to put forward candidates for election as directors and would support those companies’ preferred board candidates.
“That is precisely as it should be. Here’s an airline that wins awards for service and which pre-COVID returned regular dividends to its shareholders, thanks in large part to agile, professional management and a professional board.
“The last thing the company needs as it climbs back from COVID is the Labour Party deciding which routes it can and can’t fly, how it negotiates its employment contracts and a board stuffed to the gills with compliant union apparatchiks who wouldn’t know the first thing about how airlines run.”