Jones's call for Air NZ resignation 'step too far', says Ardern
By Pattrick Smellie
March 21 (BusinessDesk) - Regional Economic Development Minister Shane Jones's public call for the chairman of Air New Zealand to resign was "a step too far", says Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern.
Answering questions in Parliament from the leader of the National Party, Simon Bridges, Ardern said she was sure there would be "many New Zealanders who will have sympathy with the statements" from Jones, criticising Air NZ for withdrawing services to regional airports.
Jones called for Air NZ chair Tony Carter's resignation, saying he had "outlived his usefulness" and counselled its chief executive, Christopher Luxon, to decide whether he wanted to be a business leader or a politician.
"If you want to be a politician step down today," said Jones on RNZ's Morning Report. "Otherwise get back into your box."
Jones cited the fact that the government owns 52 percent of Air NZ and that the company needs to be responsive to its shareholders.
In Parliament, Ardern said she had spoken to Jones about his resignation call, saying that was "a step too far".
The war of words has broken out since the cancellation last week of Air NZ services to the Kapiti Coast, which saw Jones lecture an Air NZ executive at Kerikeri airport on the subject of regional air links.
In a statement released before question time, National's economic development spokesman Paul Goldsmith said Jones "needs to get some discipline."
"It is up to Air New Zealand to defend its record in regional New Zealand, and it’s perfectly appropriate for politicians to raise questions of performance," Goldsmith said. "What’s not acceptable is a style of politics based on attacks on businesses and their leaders."
Air New Zealand's Carter yesterday said he had written to Minister of Finance Grant Robertson to underline the airline's independence. The controversy comes as the airline hosts former US President Barack Obama, who arrived in Auckland this morning.