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Public Confidence In Air Safety Essential

29 April 2001

The public demands the right to have confidence in New Zealand's system for air safety, National's Transport spokesperson Belinda Vernon said today.

"The medical fitness of pilots to fly is one of many critical factors of aviation safety. The current system of medical certification has been exposed as being flawed. Professors Scott and Gorman have highlighted failures that cannot be ignored.

"However the ability to address this issue promptly and effectively has been handicapped by the Government's handling of the civil aviation bill, currently before select committee, and its alienation of the aviation industry.

"Time has been wasted as parties on either side of the issue have boxed from opposite corners. Instead of recognising that there was a problem there has been a stand-off between all the vested interests. In the meantime the only interests missing out have been those of the public.

"The Government's bill, while based on the recommendations, has its own flaws.

"It would be wrong to accept the Government's bill as it is. It needs amending to meet the critical test of delivering the level of confidence the public deserves.

"In addition there are issues of fairness to doctors and pilots, and issues of process which have been overlooked in the bill. The National Party is committed to addressing these issues.

"A centralised system is a means to an end, not an end in itself. We get the impression that the focus has been on implementing a centralised system first, assuming public safety benefits will follow. In the process to implement a centralised system it has overlooked important detail issues which the select committee now has to address.

"No one listening to the evidence could be in any doubt that the current system has been found wanting - flawed as a result of a poor legislative framework, poor set up and poor ongoing administration.

"A new system must have the confidence of the public, pilots, airlines, doctors and parliament. This is not a political issue, it's one of safety and it's essential we get it right," Ms Vernon said.

ENDS


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