Uplink ALPA - The Voice of Aviation

The New Zealand Air Line Pilots' Association Newsletter. As of April 2020 Uplink ALPA is a 6-monthly publication.

Conference keynote address

As we meet today the tragic incident near Hood Aerodrome in Masterton is fresh in our minds. My thoughts are with the families, friends and colleagues of the two pilots who died. 

Association President Tim Robinson, members and delegates, guests, thank you for the opportunity to join you today to recognise the contribution pilots, flight instructors and air traffic controllers make in connecting our people, our communities and our commerce, both within and outside of New Zealand. 

I’m glad to be able to join you at this year’s conference. Transport is a fantastic portfolio. Some of you will know that of all of the aspects of the transport portfolio, aviation is the one I have the least experience of. I’m a bit of a public transport nut and fascinated by mode neutrality when it comes to freight, but I have to say, starting to get to know aviation has been quite a revelation. It’s a fascinating and vital industry. 

I really appreciated the chance a few months back to ride in the cockpit with Air New Zealand’s Captain Hugh Pearce on my regular Wellington to Auckland commute. It’s an extraordinary thing to see at close quarters and you’ll be pleased to know Hugh didn’t waste the opportunity to lobby me extensively on a number of NZALPA’s objectives during the flight.

The role of aviation in an integrated transport strategy 

This is an exciting time to be in the aviation industry. 

Over the past 12 months, you have contributed to bringing 3.9 million visitors to New Zealand’s shores. In the same period, more than 3.0 million New Zealanders have flown overseas.

In an integrated transport system, we need all transport sectors to be highly efficient and to work together to help bring economic benefits, jobs and opportunities for all New Zealanders. 

Your industry is vital to New Zealand’s prosperity and links with the rest of the world. 

Because of the country we are, aviation is incredibly important. 

As a small island nation at the bottom of the world, kiwis who want to travel for family, work or OE rely almost exclusively on flying. Tourism our biggest foreign exchange earner is utterly dependant on aviation. And in these relatively underpopulated islands, small isolated communities far from our metropolitan cities know how important air connectivity is for them.

And whether it’s bringing investors or exporting or importing time sensitive products, aviation is vital to the economy.

Our ambitious programme of international air services negotiations, based on the principle of open skies, means that most of the world’s major airlines can fly to New Zealand without restriction. New Zealand now has over 90 air services agreements, opening up new routes and ensuring competition on existing ones. 

As an isolated trading nation, we need to make sure that our entire transport network and international connections, including aviation, are as strong as possible. 

Policy and regulation encouraging the growth of aviation 

As you know, rules around aviation are always evolving. I am sure you noted with interest the recent rule changes the Civil Aviation Authority has made for colour blind pilots. 

Pilots who fail the colour vision test will be now be able to sit a practical assessment that tests their skills, and if successful, their restrictions will be lifted. 

NZALPA has been advocating this for some time. Thank you. 

I take seriously the responsibility of government to be constantly updating regulations, big and small, to ensure they support a thriving industry and the importance we place on safety. 

New Southern Sky 

One of the most important changes in your sector, a modernisation project led jointly by government and industry is New Southern Sky, our ten year programme to update New Zealand’s airspace and air navigation systems. 

New Southern Sky will enable shorter journeys, improve safety and lower carbon emissions for more than 15 million passenger departures every year. 

The new technologies enabled by New Southern Sky are expected to contribute nearly $900 million of benefits to our country over the next 20 years. These benefits will come through fuel savings, lower aircraft operating costs, and efficiencies for airlines. 

The programme itself is expected to provide direct benefits of $128 million over the same period. It means New Zealand can move from ground to satellite-based navigation and surveillance in a safe, cohesive, and resilient way. 

Currently, the Ministry of Transport and the Civil Aviation Authority are working to produce and update the rules, which will support modernisation of our navigation and surveillance systems. 

All aircraft flying in controlled airspace above 24,500 feet are now required to use ADS-B. The ADS-B rules were effective from 31 December 2018. It is expected that ADS-B rules for aircraft flying below 24,500 feet in controlled airspace will come into effect on 31 December 2021. 


You have previously raised with me pilot shortages, and the lack of funding available for training. 

Having a stable pilot workforce is vital for the aviation industry. 

However, this issue is bigger than the transport industry. The matter of training and funding support is part of broader tertiary education policy. 

I have raised this matter with my colleague, the Minister for Education, Hon Chris Hipkins, and while I don’t have any progress to report today, I will continue to represent your concerns on this matter. 

Civil Aviation Bill

In a sector that is changing as fast as aviation is, we must make sure the legislative and regulatory framework is up to date. 

The government is now consulting on a draft of the Civil Aviation Bill before it is introduced to Parliament. Major policy decisions reflected in the draft Bill include a new drug and alcohol management scheme for commercial operators and ‘Just Culture’ principles aimed at encouraging the reporting of aviation incidents. 

I know how important ‘Just Culture’ principles are to the association and I hope you will continue to advocate on those provisions as the Bill goes through Parliament.

The Bill also contains technical amendments which seek to incorporate new aviation technology such as drones.

New technologies 

There is no doubt rapidly advancing technology will be a powerful enabler of change that will have a profound effect on your industry, possibly sooner rather than later.

While the term drones conjures up an image of a small handheld remote-controlled device, when we talk about drones in the transport system we are referring to aircraft of all sizes that operate without a pilot on board. 

Drones have potential to undertake tasks that are time intensive, expensive and risky. They also bring with them the promise of significant benefits.

The potential economic benefit of drone technology to New Zealand has been estimated at $1.3 billion per year. 

They have potential to add significant value to emergency services, the agriculture industry, maritime surveillance and enforcement, to name a few.

Within the transport system they could revolutionise how we transport both goods and people.

However, the integration of drones into the existing aviation system, presents obvious safety risks. 

I know there is a lot of interest in managing drone safety, particularly around airports. 

We need only look at the incident at Gatwick airport in 2018, which delayed 1000 flights and 140,000 passengers as a result of a drone sighting, to see how risky they can be. 

The Ministry of Transport and the Civil Aviation Authority – like transport regulators around the world right now - are scoping potential changes to drone regulations. This is in response to significant uptake in drone use, technological advances and increasing numbers of drone incidents near airports.

A range of measures are being considered as part of this work, including the possibility of introducing mandatory registration, e-identification and pilot competency requirements for people flying drones. 

Measures such as geo-fencing and remote identification are also being considered to mitigate the risks drones play, particularly around airports. 

The Ministry is developing a discussion document for industry, and of course you will be consulted on that, as will the wider industry. 

They are keen to engage early with the industry to help develop their thinking, and I appreciate the offer that NZALPA has already made to provide support on this. 


As you can see, there is a lot going on. From New Southern Skies, a complete re-write of the Civil Aviation legislation, to all of the work on drones. 

Our Government recognises the vital contribution aviation makes to our prosperity and our way of life. 

Thank you again for the informed and vigorous public interest advocacy you do. 

I wish you well for the rest of your conference.



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