The 2017 NZALPA Conference was one of the most successful we’ve had for some time. Once again, it was a busy mix of catching up with colleagues, comparing experiences and exchanging ideas with international speakers. However, I felt the real success of this year’s event lay in the confidence and professionalism of all delegates and guests as we tackled some of the very real issues affecting our industry and potentially bringing more change than at any other time in our careers.
I personally felt broad support with the Conference outcomes from the gathered delegates and, as NZALPA President, I remain humbled to continue in this role, but none the less confident that the Union is in a fundamentally strong position both financially and strategically.
We bid farewell to the indefatigable Herwin Bongers, safe in the knowledge that his great strides with PAN and HIMS has left a strong legacy of which he can be proud. The mantle has now been passed to Andy Pender, whom Herwin will still support, as he enthusiastically begins the role as the new Medical and Welfare Director.
As we operate in such a quickly changing environment, I was thrilled that two of our most-trusted and experienced member professionals are returning to our team of Principal Officers. Following the departure of Jon Brookes, Jim Dunn has stepped up to again bring his knowledge and experience to the ATC Director role and the Conference provided a forum for Jim to meet with existing and new ATC members, grasp the immediate issues, and already begin potential strategy with those on the ATC Council.
Now in his new role as IFALPA Director, Dean Fotti was thanked for his tireless work as NZALPA Industrial Director. This position is being filled by Andrew Ridling. Many will know Andrew as a former NZALPA President and from his many years of successful NZALPA representation in Air New Zealand negotiations. Andrew joins the team as another official with a wealth of industrial relations experience on which members and staff can draw upon.
It’s a strong line up of Principal Officers and this is essential as we, together with our General Manager Dawn Handforth and her staff, continue to work on our strategic priorities within the updated Strategic Plan draft and commence the substantive work of the Conference 2016-mandated review of NZALPA’s structure and governance.
As a professional membership organisation, it is essential that we make sure our leadership and administration design is fit for purpose to best serve the needs of our members. This will be through a thorough ‘Greenfields’ review led by a dedicated NZALPA working group.
This process will also be informed by the briefing we had at Conference regarding the proposed new NZALPA Branch structure. Feedback will be received from delegates regarding the new design, followed by Board sign off in August and subsequent member balloting.
In addition to the Conference formal agenda requirements, the 2017 theme of ‘The Liberalisation of Airspace: Challenges and Opportunities’ prompted much discussion and perspectives from delegates.
One of the highlights you’ll read about further in this issue was the panel discussion, which brought together international, government and industry views, and the prevailing conclusion that we have common ground in which we must collaborate together.
There was consensus on the panel that liberalisation brings new opportunities for jobs, tourism and economic development – positive impacts we all support. However, many of us shared the view on the challenges, such as the domination of the market by bigger airlines, atypical employment models that degrade workers’ rights, and negative ‘Flags of Convenience’ issues that would flourish if such liberalisation was left unchecked.
After attending the recent IFALPA Conference in Montreal, at which the emphasis was more on the challenges of change, it was encouraging to reflect on our region and the enthusiasm and progress of our Australian colleagues. Along with ourselves, they too are experiencing issues around supply of trained pilots and flight instructors, and we began thinking what we might be able to do together given the mutual quality of our training, geographical offering and high standards. We also realised we must keep the pressure on our various regulatory agencies to keep these standards high and not allow the phrase ‘affordable safety’ to become acceptable within our industry.
Along with our industry stakeholders at Aviation New Zealand, we also found a shared commitment to keep the quality of New Zealand flight instruction significant, and we hope to work together further to understand how we can attract both new and more experienced pilots into careers in flight training and mentoring.
Another key theme was the human need behind automation and how, as much as we embrace technology, it can never replace the expertise and experience of air traffic controllers and pilots. There will always be a superior place for the abilities of the highly trained industry professional and their specific human leadership attributes along all points of the aviation supply chain.
Frequent surveys remind us that our roles are among the most trusted by the public. Our job is to keep them safe. This human aspect of our skillset needs to also be understood by employers and management in the industry, as well as policy-makers. The extensive and intensive training of pilots and ATCs cannot be taken for granted, and this includes in the face of pressure to meet higher profit needs of the modern market. We share the greatest responsibility with our attuned skillset – that is to care for the welfare of our crew and passengers to the highest level.
These qualities resonated further with me at the most moving part of the NZALPA Conference – when we joined the families of Jim Collins, Greg Vujcich and, for the first time, Stewart Cameron, to present their respective memorial awards. Recognising in the award winners the achievement, spirit, and courage of those who we have lost, I pass on to Allan Baker, Paul Kearny, and Graeme Milligan my heartfelt congratulations.
It was also a great pleasure to award and celebrate an Honorary Life Membership for Garth McGearty, along with Scrolls of Merit for Dave Mainwaring, Gary Parata and Herwin Bongers. Well done Gents – these awards are a fitting recognition of the many hours of hard work you have carried out on behalf of our members.
Have a safe month.