Minister Shane Jones wants heads to roll over Air New Zealand flight feud

NZ First MP Shane Jones is doubling down on his attack against Air New Zealand, calling for heads to roll after the airline's board voiced concern about political interference.

Mr Jones, the Minister for Regional Economic Development, is furious about the continued decline of regional flights saying the airline has "turned their back on small-town provincial New Zealand'.

But Air New Zealand chairman Tony Carter told Newshub on Tuesday evening that the Government needed to back off.

"Any appearance of a lack of commercial independence is viewed seriously by the Air New Zealand Board and is ultimately potentially damaging to the interests of all shareholders, including the Crown," he said.

Air New Zealand CEO Chris Luxton has voiced similar concerns.

But on Wednesday morning Mr Jones came out swinging, telling the CEO to stay out of politics.

"If you want to be a politician step down today. Otherwise get back into your box," he told Stuff.

And on RNZ this morning, Mr Jones took on the entire board:

"The board in my view are no longer serving a purpose that suits the entirety of New Zealand because they are short changing the provinces."

He said that the chairman should be the start of a change to the board, and growth and connectivity in the regions would not improve unless the board changed.

The opposition has been quick to criticise Mr Jones, with National MP Paul Goldsmith calling for him to "get some discipline".

"Personal attacks on the leaders of public companies is a strange approach to economic development. You can have an opinion without going silly," he said.

"It is up to Air New Zealand to defend its record in regional New Zealand, and it's perfectly appropriate for politicians to raise questions of performance, as my colleague Nathan Guy has done.

"What's not acceptable is a style of politics based on attacks on businesses and their leaders."

ACT leader David Seymour said Mr Jones is trying to bully the board.

"Shane Jones has never spent a day of his life in the private sector and should stop telling Air New Zealand how to run its operations," he said.

"Air New Zealand is a private entity and its job is to get the best financial value for its shareholders.

"If the Government feels there is a genuine public good in the regional routes that have been shut down, it could set up a government subsidy and put those routes out for tender."