Award winning advocacy in unprecedented times for NZALPA

Lisa-Marie Richan (L-M)

Lisa-Marie Richan (L-M)

What’s it like to see the thriving international industry you know and love, reduced to just a quarter of its original size within a week?

That was the previously unimaginable experience of those working in the aviation industry as the Covid-19 pandemic swiftly shut down international borders right across the globe. As a small, geographically isolated country in the South Pacific, Aotearoa was hit particularly hard.

The impact was nothing short of devastating for long-standing Convergence client, the New Zealand Air Line Pilots’ Association (NZALPA).

As the pandemic unfolded, Convergence ran alongside NZALPA – supporting the Association and its members round the clock as they worked to evacuate Kiwis from the Covid-19 epicentre in Wuhan, lobbied to keep pilot training facilities open, and supported the hundreds of pilots who lost their jobs or were furloughed virtually overnight.

When most New Zealanders isolated and went into lockdown, Convergence was kept busy supporting and advising NZALPA as it carved out a niche for itself as a trusted, independent and expert advisor to Ministers and government agencies tasked with pandemic management and response; and as a prominent voice in New Zealand aviation.

Safety and jobs first defeats Airways’ plan to slash air services

During the height of the pandemic, when NZALPA’s focus was on preserving livelihoods and the infrastructure necessary to get New Zealand aviation back up to speed quickly post Covid, state owned enterprise Airways launched a bizarre and inadequate consultation on proposed closure of more than a third of the country’s air traffic services, affecting operations at Rotorua, Napier, New Plymouth, Gisborne, Invercargill, Kapiti Coast and Milford Sound.

The loss of air traffic services at these aerodromes would also affect the employment of other flight service and support roles also employed there. Airline pilots were especially concerned at the prospect of aerodromes with no controls on landings and departures for aircraft of all sizes and pilots of all levels of experience.

Convergence helped NZALPA to develop and lead a nationwide campaign aimed at preventing the closures, citing the safety risk created by mixing commercial and light aircraft movements in uncontrolled airspace.

A complex political, media and stakeholder engagement strategy was implemented across the motu, using data to highlight the dangers of the proposal and to show how the proposals were unnecessarily expensive, ill-timed and short sighted.

Regional airports, mayors, local development organisations and even local Labour MPs were galvanised into action to oppose the closures and, one by one, each of the proposed closures was rejected by the Civil Aviation Authority. The Airways’ Chief Executive resigned shortly after and, in a legacy to the determined mahi and leadership of NZALPA members, the Minister of Transport directed a review of New Zealand’s entire air navigation system with input from NZALPA.

With borders now open, NZALPA’s air traffic control members report improved communications with Airways management, with the controllers feeling more listened to and their experience and views respected.

Our efforts in support of NZALPA on this project were recognised by our peers, when we were announced the winner of the gold award for best Government Relations and Public Affairs project in the New Zealand Public Relations Institute’s 2022 annual awards.

We continue to work closely with NZALPA on issues affecting pilots and air traffic controllers, especially in relation to the ongoing safety of their members and the travelling public. 

At a glance - Convergence supports NZALPA to achieve:

  • Influential advocacy on behalf of NZALPA members and the travelling public
  • Leadership on national aviation safety issues, including regulation changes on drone use and complete prohibition of handheld lasers
  • High profile wins at the New Zealand Supreme Court and Court of Appeal on issues that matter, including the prevention of the Wellington Airport runway extension without adequate safety controls
  • Effective and comprehensive Parliamentary Select Committee submissions on aviation, workplace relations and safety legislation
  • Close working relationship and trusted advisor to Ministers and government officials on aviation issues, including as part of International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) delegations
  • Their opinions and advice sought by national and industry news media

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