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Conditional OK To Kiwi Share Issue Is Encouraging

Media Release
18th December 2002

GOVERNMENT’S CONDITIONAL EXERCISE OF ITS KIWI SHARE RIGHTS TO DECIDE WHETHER AIRNZ’S INTENDED TRANSACTION WITH QANTAS IS IN NEW ZEALAND’S NATIONAL INTEREST

Debate AirNZ is cautiously encouraged by the conditions Government placed on its “on balance” decision that the transaction was in New Zealand’s National Interest. Government has conceded that the alliance would reduce competition and may not result in New Zealand control of AirNZ’s operations.

Debate AirNZ’s complaint is that a major decision has been made behind closed doors with no public input. But now the decision is out it seems to be very “yes but” and the “but” is significant. Government is listening to public concern and has left the door open for a further consideration of National Interest once the final transaction is on the table. Debate AirNZ’s objective now is to encourage people to have a say. The only way that Government can take account of significant new information is if people give it to them.

Debate AirNZ called for a debate before Government exercised its Kiwi Share rights. By making a “yes but” decision Government has effectively indicated that it will now listen to the opinions and perspectives of New Zealanders who would be effected by the transaction.

If Government is listening, we must now make sure that they get something worthwhile to listen to. Debate AirNZ wants to encourage people to have a say, and will come up with ways to help them have a say. This may include information on our website www.debateairnz.org.nz in the form of a “have a say kit”, plus posting peoples’ submissions on the site.

In May 2001 Helen Clark said “I think there are quite serious obstacles in the way of the latest Qantas proposals”. Today’s announcement reiterates that Government still sees serious obstacles, but if people with an interest in the outcome don’t stand up and give information to Government and the Commerce Commission there is every likelihood that those with a financial interest in the deal progressing will get their way.

FNZS, the financial advisers to Government, and AirNZ’s experts, NECG, support the transaction because they hypothesize that otherwise Qantas will grind down AirNZ. Yet how the high cost Qantas is going to grind the low-cost Air New Zealand is not explained. People who feel that reduced competition, higher fares and poorer services should also be taken into account and are willing to do something about it must express their views. Consider one of the merits of the transaction identified by AirNZ’s experts; a new Wellington Canberra air service. On the other hand maybe that is the whole point of the deal?

In the meantime people are encouraged to continue to register their interest at the website www.debateairnz.org.nz

ENDS


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