Green Party condemns Air New Zealand after contractor provided maintenance to Royal Saudi Navy vessels

The Green Party has condemned Air New Zealand after one of its contractors provided assistance and maintenance to Saudi Arabian vessels despite the Saudi Navy's role in the humanitarian crisis in Yemen. 

Air New Zealand's business unit Gas Turbines specialises in repairing and overhauling engines used for marine and industrial purposes, such as power stations, fast ferries, and manufacturing or processing plants.

Gas Turbines occasionally contracts to carry out ad hoc overflow work from third party repair facilities. It was through a third party contract that work was done on two engines and one power turbine module on vessels that belong to the Royal Saudi Navy.

The Saudi Navy has been blocking necessary supplies, such as food, water, and medical supplies, to Yemen since 2015. As a result, the United Nations believes the country is "one step away from famine".

The Green Party's human rights spokesperson, Golriz Ghahraman, says New Zealanders will be "heartbroken" to find Air New Zealand may have "helped commit these mass crimes for financial gain".

"We must now be vigilant here in Aotearoa against the culture of impunity when it comes to corporate profit from war industries," she says.

"As a child in Iran I saw a little of the ravages of another Middle Eastern war, which waged on for far too long because there was profit in our suffering. After celebrating the reinstatement of our refugee resettlement programme last week, this latest revelation is a reminder that the best way to help refugees is to prevent our displacement. Air New Zealand has breached that duty of care."

An Air New Zealand spokesperson says Gas Turbines hasn't contracted directly with the Royal Saudi Navy and won't carry out any further work of this nature.

"The Gas Turbines business is reviewing its contracting processes to ensure it has improved oversight of future work assigned through third party arrangements," they add.

Green Party condemns Air New Zealand after contractor provided maintenance to Royal Saudi Navy vessels
Photo credit: Facebook / Golriz Ghahraman

Ghahraman says she welcomes this move from the airline to cease support for the Saudi military.

"However, we as a nation have an absolute legal and moral duty to investigate, and hold to account anyone in Air New Zealand's leadership who may be found to have knowingly provided support and assistance to the atrocities committed in Yemen," she says.

"If those in Air New Zealand HQ were not aware of what was going on, it needs to be established how that was allowed to happen."

Finance Minister Grant Robertson says he was "surprised and alarmed" to hear a subsidiary of Air New Zealand had been working with the Saudi Navy, and raised the matter with the airline as soon as the Government was aware of it.

"Air New Zealand has now assured me they will not be undertaking any more work with the Saudi military. They are also looking at reporting systems and are ensuring more transparency," he says.

"While Air New Zealand Gas Turbines is its own company, this situation is simply not acceptable. The chief executive of Air New Zealand [Greg Foran] has apologised to me."

Defence policy specialist Paul Buchanan believes there could be diplomatic repercussions for New Zealand.

"Iran will obviously not like the fact that its trading partner New Zealand is providing services to its military rival," he told 1 News.

"It's indisputable that the [Saudi-led] coalition has committed war crimes on an industrial scale, so getting involved in the Saudi Arabian military in any way shape or form, even if it's not supplying them with weapons, is pretty fraught."