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Copeland issues clarion call on Air NZ shares

Copeland issues clarion call on Air NZ shareholding

United Future New Zealand’s finance spokesman, Gordon Copeland, in a speech during general debate in Parliament, today called on the Government to explore all other options before considering the sale of a 25% shareholding in Air New Zealand to Qantas.

“The Government, for and on behalf of the people of New Zealand, holds a 74 percent controlling shareholding in Air NZ,” he said.

“Accordingly, the Government, in its capacity as a controlling shareholder, could here and now rule out – at least for the short to medium term – a shareholding sale to Qantas. It is after all our airline.

“Air NZ is now a viable airline with a bright future. Investors whether domiciled in New Zealand or overseas would, I believe, willingly come up with both equity and interest-bearing capital to enable our airline, unassisted by Qantas, to make that bright future a reality.

“In my view, it makes no sense to proceed on the assumption that Qantas is the best or indeed the only option.

“A 25 percent shareholding sale, here and now, to Qantas will give that company immediate and detailed information concerning all aspects of Air New Zealand’s operations: and this to an airline which has for some 60 years been a vociferous hard ball competitor of Air NZ.

“So much so that the only analogy that I can draw would be the one recently featured in Tom Scott’s pithy cartoon, namely that it is akin to the NZRFU selling a 25 percent stake in the All Blacks to the Australian Rugby Union.

“Qantas will use the information it gains through a significant stake in Air NZ to advance its own ends and the interests of Australia, and to the detriment of Air NZ and the people of this country.

“Leopards do not change their spots.

“It will be our tourism, our exports and our economic future that will likely suffer. It will be New Zealand travellers who will pay the higher air fares – perhaps not right away, but certainly in the fullness of time – to enable Qantas to recoup the up to $100 million it is right now prepared to lose in matching Air NZ’s new domestic fares as part of its hard ball strategy to gain the glittering Air NZ prize which it has coveted for so long.

“Are we prepared to concede that the nation which holds the America’s Cup and beat the Australian basketball team to go to the World Championships lacks the will and the courage to build our own koru-branded airline back to be one of the best and most successful in the world?

“Let’s not forget too that a New Zealander and ex-Air NZ executive Ray Webster has grown Easy Jet 80 percent in the last year to make it a formidable force within the European aviation market. Ray has stated publicly that he wants to make himself available to Air NZ and its shareholders so that success can be replicated in this country.

“Let’s grasp the opportunity which this moment in history provides and make our airline a symbol to the world that New Zealand has found a new confidence and is no longer prepared to be anybody’s whipping boy,” Mr Copeland concluded.

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