Govt plants union official on Air NZ board

The appointment by Grant Robertson of a long-standing union official to the board of Air New Zealand is another example of poor judgement by the Minister, National’s Shadow Treasurer Andrew Bayly says.

“Mr Robertson does not appear to be acting in the best interests of Air New Zealand in appointing a person who has so little proven governance experience.

“While there has always been an element of political patronage in appointing people to Government-owned entities, the difference with Air New Zealand is that it is a company listed on the New Zealand Stock Exchange and this requires a greater ‘duty of care’.

“Robertson’s claim that, as the person representing the Government’s 52 percent shareholding, he can effectively appoint anyone he sees fit shows how out of touch the Minister is.

“This appointment follows a letter from Mr Robertson to Air New Zealand on 8 April 2021. After making clear in his letter how grateful Air NZ should be to Government, he then set out in his letter a list of ‘expectations’ that came with the $600 million top up. 

“These included, amongst a wider list, an ‘expectation’ to maintain domestic destinations, continue to meet environmental sustainability outcomes and specifically ‘to enhance its role as a leader for best work place relations’. 

“Mr Robertson has carried through with his threat in his letter of 8 April when he stated ‘achieving these [Government] expectations and objectives will require alignment of culture and skills with Air New Zealand’s strategy and stakeholder relationships’.

“Whilst it is clear that Air New Zealand should maintain good relationships with the host of unions that represents its workforce, the logic for his appointment seems little more than he is clearly supportive of the Government.

“It is critical that all appointments to the board meet the highest test of proficiency, not that they are likely supporters of the Government, and this is especially important when operating in a listed environment.

“Furthermore, appointing ill-qualified people runs the risk of the company being regarded by the investment market to be unduly influenced by the Government.  Such a situation is likely to devalue not only the Government’s 52 percent shareholding, but the value of the business for all shareholders.”