There is nothing so infuriating as to be patronised ... to be patted on the head and told to run along by someone who couldn't even wipe their own face without assistance just a week before.

I am talking about Air New Zealand — and in Whanganui we know their story better than most.

I recall sitting in my ministerial office in Wellington as Air NZ's parliamentary liaison officer told me services to Whanganui from Wellington would be cut.

This conversation happened after I had fought to bring them back after a previous amputation of the same service a few years before.


All the assurances were given that we would retain the service to Auckland and passengers would be able to access all ports from there.

Of course, the service had not been well used after Air New Zealand started using Metroliners for the leg between Whanganui and Wellington and numbers on the route had declined.

In Air New Zealand's view, crawling down the inside of a 44-gallon drum to sit with your knees behind your ears didn't appeal to some ungrateful people who should have just been happy to have a flight going their way.

The liaison officer eventually conceded that the flights were well patronised, but couldn't pay for themselves.

This was the chicken-and-egg situation that came about because the bigger planes were removed and smaller planes put on the route.

Fewer people flew because they felt less safe in the smaller planes.

Flying to Whanganui from Auckland was also dodgy because flights were regularly cancelled due to "engineering requirements".

They would avoid the cost of paying for accommodation by putting on a minibus, revealing the fact that only eight people had bought tickets and that flight was probably not viable anyway.


The "engineering requirements" could resurface the next time they had a flight to avoid for want of passengers.

A lack of patronage belies a lack of marketing so Air New Zealand really showed no interest in Whanganui early in the piece.

Smaller planes were just a way of turning down patronage so the cut could be made as planned.

When they came back to tell me they were stopping the service between Whanganui and Auckland, all the previous promises went out the window.

Under a change in leadership, it was obvious that Air New Zealand were happy to just chop and say: "Well, what can you do about it?"

The messenger delivering the news helpfully gave me contacts for Craig Emeny and Air Chathams and I was at least grateful for that.


Sitting in Air New Zealand headquarters with Air Chathams, we were made a number of promises by Air NZ which have never eventuated.

They were designed to keep us quiet while they made a staged and silent exit from the service and it largely worked.

Recently, we've heard Shane Jones, the Minister for Regional Economic Development, get stuck into Air New Zealand over a further removal of service from provincial routes.

The amputation of the Kapiti leg followed Westport, Whanganui, Whakatane, Kaitaia, and Masterton.

The arrival of Jetstar meant further chops of services to the provinces so that flights between, say, Wellington and New Plymouth were drastically cut, giving people the joy of flying Christchurch to Auckland then back to New Plymouth if they want to save a nights' accommodation.

The airline's chief executive has been on radio protesting that there are more seats on provincial flights, and bigger planes flying less frequently to regional ports while channelling regional passengers through major hubs may well mean more provincial flights, but we are not sucked in.


Shane Jones is only letting the shareholders' views get through to the board, and he is quite right to do so.

That is what representation is all about.

Jones' comments aren't without forethought, though, because he only has to say it out loud.

Getting slapped down by the Prime Minister and National for saying so only increases his currency and that of his party with provincial voters.

Let's face it — politics kept Air New Zealand alive when they were about to breathe their last gasp. They can't complain now politics wants payback.

Chester Borrows
Chester Borrows

Chester Borrows served as Whanganui MP for 12 years and as a minister in the National Government.