Government unveils $600m aviation rescue plan

Author
Jason Walls, NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Thu, 19 Mar 2020, 11:42AM
Photo / Supplied
Photo / Supplied

Government unveils $600m aviation rescue plan

Author
Jason Walls, NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Thu, 19 Mar 2020, 11:42AM

Economic Development Minister Phil Twyford has announced details of the Government's $600 million aviation support package to cushion the impact of Covid-19.

Financial support will be made available to airlines to pay passenger-based government charges for the next six months – at a cost of $162 million.

The Government will also shell out $37 million to cover Airways-related fees for the next six months.

In addition to this, Twyford has announced that any fee rises or pricing reviews from agencies that charge fees at the border will be put on hold for 12 months.

These agencies include the Ministry for Primary Industries, Civil Aviation Authority, Aviation Security Service and Customs.

Finally, $70m worth of financial support will be made available to Airways, which is facing declining revenue.

Twyford said the Government recognises airlines and airports are being hit hard by the Covid-19 pandemic.

The package is about helping to keep money in the aviation sector's pocket.

"We are moving quickly to help by stepping in to fund things like traffic control and security screening that the aviation industry normally pay themselves and stopping any increases to fees for the next year.

"This package will see the Government temporarily fund these services while airlines experience customer decline," Twyford said this morning.

These "first steps" were designed to ensure the essentials of the aviation system continue to run, help keep airlines in New Zealand and encourage them to increase services faster during the eventual recovery.

"We are also committing to working with the sector and the CAA to ensure there is no red tape stopping airlines ramping services back up when international conditions improve.

Twyford said he has been in frequent conversation with industry leaders and will continue to be in regular contact to make sure they have the support they need.

"This is just the start and further initiatives will be developed with the sector to keep critical air freight flowing and our airports open."

'Welcome first step'

BARNZ (the Board of Airline Representatives New Zealand (BARNZ) says the $600m package is a "welcome first step".

But executive director Jason Tighe-Umbers said it did not provide much detail of the planned spend, other than to say it would "support the aviation sector and the protection of supply chains".

The package comes as New Zealand's biggest airports continue to feel the impacts of the pandemic.

Auckland Airport has reported its passenger numbers are down 44 per cent, compared to the same time last year.

Today's package does not, however, extend to Air New Zealand, which is 51 per cent owned by the Government.

Twyford told reporters yesterday that discussions between Air New Zealand and the Government are "on-going".

"We need the national carrier to play a critical role for a year or more to help us get through the economic disruption."