Nelson MP Nick Smith welcomed receiving the petition of over 16,000 people from the region from lead petitioner Willie Snowden supporting the retention of Air New Zealand’s regional maintenance facility based at Nelson Airport.
“This huge petition is a powerful message of support for Nelson’s regional maintenance facility. We support the Government providing $900m to Air NZ but not without conditions to support jobs and services to the regions.” Dr Smith said.
“The proposed closure of Nelson’s heavy engineering base will not just cost 100 high paying jobs but will flow on to other businesses who sub-contract for specialist aircraft maintenance. Nelson has over the past two decades grown a strong cluster of aviation services diversifying the region’s economic base but this will be gutted by this closure” Dr Smith said.
“We appreciate that Air New Zealand is going through an extraordinarily tough time but Nelson should not be the fall guy. We are not opposed to a temporary downsizing of the Nelson base but want the opportunity for it to return as aviation recovers from the Covid-19 global downturn” Dr Smith said.
“The Government has been deafening in its silence on this issue. None of the parties in Government, Labour NZ First or the Greens, have come to the defence of the region or the over 100 staff affected. We are most disappointed that Regional Economic Development Minister Shane Jones has shown zero interest despite claiming he is the champion for the regions and previously expressing strong views on Air New Zealand’s business. The unfairness for Nelson is that this Government would be all over this decision if it involved the loss of 100 high paying jobs in Northland” Willie Snowden said.
“This week is pivotal. The consultation period for staff ended last weekend and we expect a final decision on Friday. Our hope is that the Government and Air New Zealand will listen to the 16,000 petitioners and will recognise the efficient Nelson turbo prop base as worth retaining for the long term recovery of New Zealand aviation” Willie Snowden said.
The petition was presented to Nelson MP Nick Smith today outside the new $10m hangar opened by Sir John Key in 2015. Dr Smith will present the petition to Parliament tomorrow where it will be referred to the Transport Select Committee.