It’s been six months since Barrier Air chairman Peter Griffiths told his airline that competitor Sunair was grounded and that Barrier Air could pick up some of its work.
The fact he did so while he was deputy chair of the Civil Aviation Board and before Sunair was told, is confirmed in a report just released, as is the fact that he did so to gain a commercial advantage, however ‘inadvertent’.
Peter Griffiths resigned, but Sunair remains grounded.
Sunair Aviation company director Daniel Power says Mary Sholtens’ terms of reference restrained her investigation a little and that the general aviation industry would like to have seen them widened.
“I have seen the report and yes, the ex-vice chairman of the CAA board had used confidential information in an incorrect way, and probably in an attempt to make some financial gain, that has been made clear by the report,” says Daniel.
“The other item of interest that comes from the report is Mary Sholtens had spoken to a number of participants within the industry, mainly air transport operators like Sunair, and it has become clear that there is a high level of distrust from the industry toward the CAA.”
It’s now clear from the report that Peter Griffiths had no influence on Sunair’s grounding, and that transparency will help in restoring the industry’s relationship with the CAA, says Daniel.
“But certainly that needs to be noted, that the relationship between the CAA and industry is not good. I think anyone would agree that to be an effective regulator, they need to be able to relate to the industry well.
“So I’m accepting of the report and accepting of the fact that the ex-vice chair hasn’t influenced the CAA at a grass root level, but his behaviour as a board member hasn’t been particularly impressive.
“I do accept the Peter Griffiths affair has not influenced the CAA with the Sunair shut down. I’m accepting of that with what has come through on the report, but certainly there is work to be done with regard to building a better relationship between industry and the CAA.”
He says they are close to resolving the issues raised by the CAA, and Sunair Aviation expects to resume operations shortly.
“There’s a lot of customers waiting for us to start, I can assure you. Our services have been missed.
“Our specialty is providing essential air services to remote areas, and in our absence in the last six months, no one else has taken on this work. The remote areas principally being, the far north and Poverty Bay are missing our services, that’s for sure.”
The report by Mary Scholtens QC ‘Investigation of an Alleged Conflict of Interest’ is here.
Mary Sholtens’ recommendations are that the CAA board review its conflicts of interest policy to ensure that it complies with all the relevant provisions of the Crown Entities Act 2004.
That the CAA Board develop a policy which includes checking the interests register to see if all board members are entitled to the information resulting from the no surprises policy, and in a format that signals very clearly the confidential nature of the information and that fact that the decision has not yet been advised.
That the board consider whether it should support the appointment to, or the continuation of appointment of persons with a current financial interest in the industry, perhaps particularly in the General Aviation sector.
That the board and the authority ensure there are clear policies for any contact between board members and authority staff where ’private’ regulatory decisions are involved and that such contact, if it is to occur, should be minimised, bearing in mind the potential for perceptions of conflict.
That the authority continue to take opportunities to educate the General Aviation sector on those matters which ensure an unbiased, fair system, such as the independence of the Director’s functions, the method of assessing risk and identifying participants for audit or similar regulatory action and the principles of ’just culture’ applied by the authority.
At its meeting on March 1 the board accepted the conclusions and recommendations of the report. The recommendations will be actioned as a matter of urgency.
The Board also resolved to make the report public as soon as practicable.