With the 2019 NZALPA Conference a month away, Tim Robinson and I travelled to Parliament recently to meet with Ministers and Opposition MPs on a number of issues on behalf of the membership.
A major focus of our conversation with the Minister of Transport, Hon Phil Twyford, was progress on the long-awaited Civil Aviation Act (CA Act) Review. What is known as an ‘exposure briefing’ on the Bill’s contents will be released by Cabinet and discussed by Ministry of Transport officials with key industry players. This will include NZALPA as a key industry voice. After this consultation and consideration of key concerns, the Bill will enter the Parliamentary process, including the wider Select Committee phase, which will provide further feedback opportunity for industry and members of the public.
Because the Review of the CA Act has been slow in its progression, including transcending two governments, the Minister said he was determined to convert the Bill into law, with all necessary amendments, well within this Parliamentary term.
Meanwhile, in regard to the Drone/RPAS regulations review, we were heartened to learn that the Ministry of Transport and the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) were working much more quickly on necessary and urgent changes, and this would include device and operator registration requirement for drones/RPAS over 250 grams. NZALPA welcomes this and continues to offer the CAA any further technical assistance and support it needs to bring these regulations into practice. We also learned that the Ministry of Transport’s own figures claim around 200,000 RPAS devices are brought into the country by tourists each year – a staggering new figure that adds to those already owned and operated by New Zealanders.
In addition to briefing the Minister on the continuing staff supply challenges for our Air Traffic Control (ATC) members, we also provided him and his officials an update on the continued frustration of pilot supply and the anomaly in the student loan quantum available for pilot training.
We explained our joint efforts with Aviation New Zealand and other industry players, particularly the issue of the Ministry of Education using outdated data. Minister Twyford has undertaken to approach the Minister of Education specifically given this real industry concern is proving a barrier to New Zealand meeting its short-to-medium term pilot supply needs.
We’re looking forward to the Minister directly updating NZALPA members on these issues when he delivers his key note speech at Conference in Auckland next month.
While at Parliament we also met with National’s transport spokesperson, Hon Paul Goldsmith. Since the departure of former transport spokesperson Jami Lee-Ross late last year, Paul Goldsmith and Associate Transport Spokesperson Brent Hudson MP have been looking to formulate a clear aviation policy for National within the transport portfolio, and we hope to understand this more when Paul Goldsmith also addresses members at next month’s NZALPA Conference.
What we do know is that National’s approach, while cognisant of security and safety concerns, is less prescriptive on regulatory issues in order to accelerate innovation. We look forward to hearing further detail on this.
One area we know the Labour-led coalition government doesn’t agree with the Opposition is support of National’s Private Member’s Bill raising the penalties for those who are caught using high-powered hand-held lasers against aircraft. Minister Twyford informed us that raising penalties would be ineffective and was not considered “good law-making.” We reminded the Minister of NZALPA’s call for full prohibition of the devices and he has asked Transport officials to check with Customs on numbers of these handheld devices that are still coming into the country.
We were also clear that this will remain a major pilot and public safety priority for NZALPA and we will continue to speak out until the Government makes clear what alternative action it will be taking, particularly given the incidents of laser strikes on aircraft has more than doubled since 2014.
While in the Beehive we were also invited to meet with the Hon Iain Lees-Galloway, Minister of Workplace Relations and Safety.
With the NZALPA-Air New Zealand High Performance Engagement (HPE) workplace strategy considered an exemplar among the public service in particular, the Minister was keen to learn more about how HPE works in practice, and is promoting this method to be used throughout the public sector. It was encouraging to have the hard work NZALPA has put into HPE recognised in this way and held up as an example for others to follow.
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