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Dithering Over Air NZ Costs Taxpayers $1 Billion

10 April 2002

Government Dithering Over Air NZ Costs Taxpayers $1 Billion

"Government dithering and ideology forced taxpayers to bail out Air New Zealand to the tune of $1 billion," says National Party Leader Bill English.

Mr English's comments follow today's release of papers - under the Official Information Act - relating to the Air New Zealand bail out.

"The papers show that Singapore Airlines was keen to inject up to $850 million into Air New Zealand, but the Government wouldn't make a decision on allowing Singapore to lift its stake to 49 per cent.

"Months of Government dithering over the Singapore deal - with both Helen Clark and Michael Cullen intimately involved - ultimately left it with no choice but to put $1 billion dollars of taxpayers' money into the airline."

Mr English says the papers show that saving Air New Zealand would have cost taxpayers a lot less if the Government had of acted sooner.

"Coalition politics ended up costing taxpayers a billion dollars."

A letter from Rod Donald on July 19 shows the Greens strongly opposed lifting the foreign cap. Mr English says SIA was aware of this reluctance to lift the foreign ownership cap.

"In a letter on August 17 to Government advisers Cameron and Company shows SIA is bending over backwards to accommodate the Government's political constraints.

"However, a letter from Cameron and Company to Michael Cullen on August 26 states: 'The SIA Proposal was unattractive to Ministers because it sought an equity stake in Air NZ of 49%'.

Helen Clark and her Government dithered and stuck to blind ideology about foreign ownership and New Zealand taxpayers have paid a billion dollars for that luxury," Mr English concluded.

Ends

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