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Labour's Plans To Sell Air NZ Will Destroy Icon

9 July 2002

Labour's Plans To Sell Air NZ Will Destroy National Icon

Labour's plans to sell a strategic stake in Air New Zealand to Qantas will destroy a national icon, National Transport Spokesperson Belinda Vernon said today.

In releasing National's aviation policy, Ms Vernon said National opposed a sale to Qantas because it would be against the national interest.

"A sale to Qantas will marginalise Air New Zealand to a regional airline, erode our share of high-yield international traffic, put Australian tourist interests ahead of our own and see Air New Zealand's long-haul services cut.

"A Qantas minority will lock out any other airline from taking an interest in Air New Zealand. It will lock New Zealand into a potentially monopolistic, no-choice aviation market, if not in the short term then certainly in the long term.

"The price of selling to Qantas will be less competition, higher prices and less service. New Zealanders want real competition not some artificial charade plotted behind closed doors.

"Our tourism and business needs an airline that promotes travel to and from New Zealand, not one that does what's best for Australia.

"Continued talk about Qantas taking an interest in Air New Zealand is a softening up process so that when a deal is done there will be no resistance. A sale is yet another part of Labour's hidden agenda.

Last year Qantas tried to buy a 25% stake in Air New Zealand. The offer was one of two considered by the Labour Government before its dithering led to a $1 billion taxpayer-funded bailout of the airline.

At the time PA Consulting said the Qantas offer was 'likely to marginalize Air New Zealand and retain the greatest proportion of benefits from integration for itself'.

"The Government was advised that selling to Qantas would lead to a smaller Air New Zealand acting as a support airline for Qantas.

"Labour's dithering last year destroyed huge value in Air New Zealand. Now they want to hock off part of our national icon to Qantas for between 35 to 50c a share - one third of the offer made by Singapore a year ago.

"Qantas has been a shareholder of Air New Zealand before. It was not a satisfactory relationship. We should not let history repeat itself," Belinda Vernon said.

Ends


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