A former Far North mayor has taken a swipe at Air New Zealand's service to his region and backed Cabinet Minister Shane Jones' criticism of the airline's board.

Wayne Brown said the stance of the airline's chairman Tony Carter was ''laughable''.

Carter has written to the Government about Regional Economic Development Minister's Shane Jones' crticism of the airline's regional operations and the danger of commercial independence.

''That chairman is also a director of record loss-making Fletchers, so how would he recognise being commercial?'' said Brown, also a former chairman of the Auckland District Health Board.


In reference to the $885 million bailout after Air New Zealand's near collapse in 2001, he said taxpayers in rural New Zealand ''coughed up'' their share to rescue the airline and if it needed help again in the future would have to do the same.

"Those people all get called on to tip their tax in when Air New Zealand gets into trouble, which they do occasionally and will do again.

"If they're going to be backed up by the New Zealand public they have an obligation to serve the New Zealand public.''

Figures show that since the bailout the airline has paid successive governments about $1.2 billion in dividends after a quick turnaround in financial performance and large profits in the last few years.

After Jones' criticism this week, the airline took the unusual step of writing to Finance Minister Grant Robertson to point out that it had obligations to other shareholders besides the Government and said any appearance of a lack of commercial independence could be potentially damaging for all shareholders.

The Government owns just over 51 per cent of the airline and Brown said this provided security for the remaining shareholders.

''Other shareholders in Air NZ are well aware of the government being the major shareholder and take comfort from knowing the taxpayer will underwrite them again, so it is more than fair to point out that Air New Zealand has obligations to rural New Zealand -
as Jonesy has.''

Brown is involved in property development mainly in Northland and for a time had an interest in a charter airline in the Bay of Islands.

Air New Zealand said when it canned services to Kaitaia, Whakatane and Westport that it was losing $1 million a month on its regional network.

''If they can't make money out of that they shouldn't be doing all these other things.''

He said if the airline had money to help pay for former President Barack Obama's trip to New Zealand to play golf against former Prime Minister John Key then, ''they've certainly got enough money to run a bloody system to Kaitaia.''

Brown said in the lead up to the axing of services to Kaitaia in 2014, Air New Zealand had its pricing wrong and there was complexity that customers didn't want.

Fares between Auckland and Wellington were frequently higher than those between Kaitaia and Auckland.

A response to Brown's comments has been sought from Air New Zealand. It said this week that capacity on its regional network has increased over the past four years and prices have come down. The airline also said it must be run along commercial lines in accordance with Companies Act obligations.