An aviation group and pilots are worried that problems continue at the Civil Aviation Authority where there has been staff turnover 30 per cent higher than the state service average during the past year.
The authority is undergoing a board shake-up and is under Government pressure to lift its performance.
Aviation NZ chief executive John Nicholson said there was disquiet within the sector about culture at the regulator which was losing experienced staff and delivering inconsistent audits of operators.
And the Air Line Pilots Association says there appearto be resourcing issues at the authority which was last month blasted for its performance in the lead-up to a helicopter crash in Fox Glacier that claimed seven lives. When the findings of an inquiry were released, the authority admitted it wasn't sure of its role in the lead-up to the crash in 2015.
Association president Tim Robinson said while regulation of the airline sector appeared to be running well, there appeared to be problems in the general aviation (small planes) and helicopter sectors.
''Clearly there are still resourcing issues. I speculate there's culture issues within the CAA and they have silo issues within their different inspectorates.''
Nicholson said the authority appeared bogged down by a wide range of Government requirements.
''I just wonder if we've started to make things too complex. A lot of the clarity
is lost in bureaucracy.''
He said the helicopter sector was facing inconsistency with companies challenged about under-slung loads and hot refuelling of choppers.
''Practices that have been in place since aviation began are now being pulled up. Let's focus on the issues that are killing people.''
Transport Minister Phil Twyford told the Herald the CAA had made ''significant'' improvements in regulatory surveillance since the Fox accident but he expected improvements.
''Safety is our Government's top transport priority and I expect CAA to continue to lift its performance. I have asked the board to focus on regulatory performance over the coming year.''
Two board members, Jim Boult and Grant Lilly, have finished their terms and have been replaced by Jill Hatchwell, who has a strong aviation background and has served on the board of Vincent Aviation, and former Labour MP and Transport Safety Minister Harry Duynhoven.
''When considering who I appoint to boards I consider a wide range of factors, including the skills and experience that current members hold and who would best complement these skills. I am confident the members I have recently appointed to the CAA board will bring skills that will complement and strengthen the existing membership,'' Twyford said.
CAA figures show that, including part-timers, there were 284 staff, and 49 had left during the past year. That turnover of 17 per cent at the Crown entity compares with the annual rate of 12.1 per cent across the public service.
The authority has been subject to auditor general inquiries previously which have made a long list of recommendations, and Twyford said he saw no need for a fresh inquiry.
''There is no reason to believe an inquiry is warranted. The CAA brought in PwC to undertake an independent review to establish whether these improvements have been effective, and I am reassured that PwC has found this to be the case.''
Nicholson is also concerned about the length of time for Transport Accident Investigation Commission reports to be finished.
Twyford said ''we all want to see TAIC reports out as early as possible. Having said that, investigations into aviation incidents and accidents need to be done thoroughly to ensure the findings are robust, and this takes time.''
One helicopter operator who is developing a device that monitors aircraft performance that can be used to provide answers after air accidents praises the CAA.
Practices that have been in place since aviation began are now being pulled up. Let's focus on the issues that are killing people.
Over The Top helicopters chief executive Louisa Patterson has developed Eye in the Sky and said CAA staff had gone above and beyond to help her certify the device that could be licensed by September.
As an official data recorder it cannot be used by the NZ Police to prosecute, because it is protected under International Civil Aviation Organisation rules.
The information, however, can be used by the CAA and the Transport Accident Investigation Commission (TAIC in their investigations of any incident, including fatal crashes.
The authority performs safety and security regulatory functions and its other arm, Avsec, delivers aviation security services at New Zealand's five security-designated airports – Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch, Dunedin and Queenstown.
Its last annual report showed about a third of its $146 million revenue in the year to last June came from passenger security charges and most of the rest from levies with just $3.5m directly from the Government. It reported a deficit of $1.3m in the 12 months to June 30 last year.