Judge confirms Auckland Airport's position
22 September 2006
High Court Judge confirms Auckland Airport's position
The High Court has today granted an injunction in favour of Auckland International Airport Limited (AIAL) restraining Air New Zealand from unlawfully disclosing details of AIAL's aeronautical pricing proposal.
Justice Harrison resoundingly rejected Air New Zealand's argument that the proposed prices were not confidential. In reaching this view he noted that:
* Air New Zealand had voluntarily entered into a mutual confidentiality deed; and
* Air New Zealand had also signed an unequivocal acknowledgement that the entire contents of AIAL's pricing proposal was confidential.
AIAL Chief Executive Don Huse stated that the original request to have these negotiations on a commercial-in-confidence basis was made by the airlines, "hence we were somewhat surprised by Air New Zealand's threat.
"By having commercial-in-confidence negotiations, we and the airlines are then able to supply a lot more detailed information to each other with the intention of allowing a far more robust exchange of views and discussion on the pricing options. We are pleased at the Court's judgment. It upholds the confidentiality deed freely entered into by both parties and protects the commercial-in-confidence nature of the negotiation."
Today's judgment said that it was difficult to resist drawing the "inference that Air New Zealand was resorting to the public forum in an unlawful attempt to place pressure on the consultative process for its own commercial benefit."
It said that while Air New Zealand may be dissatisfied and frustrated by the consultative process mandated by Parliament, "that view cannot be elevated to an overriding right to treat its contractual obligations as if they did not exist."
The judgment noted that Air New Zealand's reliance on the higher moral ground of the public good to justify disclosure does not ring true. "In its capacity as watchdog for the public interest the airline signed a deed agreeing to maintain confidentiality in all information supplied by AIAL in the consultative process. Without protest, it took the benefit of that agreement and received details of AIAL's proposed charges ... Now it says the public, whose interests it represents but from whom it unequivocally agreed to withhold the information, is entitled to its disclosure."
Mr Huse said that, "All parties to the airfield pricing consultation can now get on with the negotiations in good faith with a view to securing an outcome of benefit to all parties."
"Despite all this legal posturing by Air New Zealand, we remain committed to continuing a positive and constructive engagement with our airline partners. The aim is to reach a negotiated outcome which recognises the interests of both parties but most importantly, also delivers on the joint responsibilities AIAL and its airline partners have to the travelling public," said Mr Huse.