Grant Robertson hits back at 'out of touch' National MP Andrew Bayly, over claims about union official's appointment to Air New Zealand board

Bayly said the government is playing favourites.
Bayly said the government is playing favourites. Photo credit: Getty Images

Grant Robertson has denied having any part in the decision to appoint a 'long-standing union official' to Air New Zealand's board after the appointment drew a strong response and claims of playing favourites from National Party Shadow Treasurer, Andrew Bayly.

In a statement, Bayly said the appointment of Paul Goulter to the airline's board was a poor decision based on playing favourites.

"[Grant] Robertson does not appear to be acting in the best interests of Air New Zealand in appointing a person who has so little proven governance experience. 

ACT Leader David Seymour was also critical of the appointment.

"Even as a frequent critic of this Labour Government, I never thought Grant Robertson would try appointing a teacher union rep to run an airline." 

Seymour went on to label Robertson a megalomaniac.

"The best that the Chair can say in defence of the appointment is 'Air New Zealand works closely with unions.' It’s like a chicken farmer saying they work closely with foxes."

However, Grant Robertson's office says he is not involved in the board member selection or appointments but the Crown does vote at the AGM which is later in the year.

"The Minister doesn’t make appointments to the Air NZ board. It shows how out of touch Mr Bayly is that he doesn’t understand the process,” a spokesperson for Grant Robertson told Newshub.

Bayly then went further claiming "appointing ill-qualified people" runs the risk of the company being regarded by the investment market to be unduly influenced by the Government.  

Goulter had previously worked for NZEI Te Riu Roa.

However, president of the New Zealand Air Line Pilots' Association (NZALPA) Captain Andrew Ridling, says Goulter's appontment is a good thing as it brings real stories, experiences and concerns from the shop floor right to the boardroom table."

"NZALPA believes it's important to be able to tap into those on the front lines and having directors that have employee alignment is strategically astute.  This has helped define the culture throughout Air New Zealand," Captain Ridling said.

NZALPA says approximately 98 percent of all Air NZ pilots are members of a union, and their association itself has a membership close to 95 percent of all pilots. 

Ridling says that link between the frontline and the boardroom appears to be a strong one under the airline's new CEO, Greg Foran.

"The CEO, for example, spends one day a week working alongside all areas at the airline." 

But Bayly disagrees and says the appointment has nothing to do with shop floor experience.

"Whilst it is clear that Air New Zealand should maintain good relationships with the host of unions that represent its workforce, the logic for his appointment seems little more than that he is clearly supportive of the Government," Bayly said.

Alison Gerry, Claudia Batten and Paul Goulter will all join the Air NZ board later this year.