A union for pilots and air traffic controllers has slammed Government for what it says is inaction on aviation safety.

New Zealand Air Line Pilots Association general manager Dawn Handforth said the organisation was looking for decisive action after a year of talk.

While the Government today said it was taking action, Handforth said: ''At the end of the day we heard too many Government excuses on critical aviation safety issues, affecting our members and the travelling public. The time for talking has passed; we won't be silent on the Government's failure to act in 2019.''

In a hard-hitting editorial in the association's monthly newsletter, Handforth said there were concerns about the lack of action on drones, laser pointers and support for pilot training.


The association had last year focused on building relationships with ministers.

She said 'notable events'' included Transport Minister Phil Twyford being unable to attend the association's annual conference as promised, after he was stripped of his civil aviation responsibilities following his use of a mobile phone on an aircraft after the doors had closed.

Responsibility for civil aviation then shifted to Associate Transport Minister Julie Anne Genter.

''We have made our position on drones clear, but to date progress has been slow,'' said Handforth, whose association has more than 2500 members.

In response to drone incidents, Genter told the Herald in January that she was deeply concerned at drone users breaking the rules and the Ministry of Transport was ''looking at'' potential changes to regulations.

The association wants compulsory registration of drones weighing more than 250 grams after a growing number of drone sightings near airports. It fears a drone strike could be catastrophic for an aircraft at a critical stage of flight - take off and landing.

Genter said today that the government had a ''significant work programme'' focused on delivering improvements to safety rules.

"This includes updating regulations around drones and the use of airspace, updating the Civil Aviation Act to fit the changing aviation environment, and investing in pilot training.


She said when it came into office the government found it was clear that regulations weren't fit for purpose to address the sharp growth in drone numbers.

"In the next few months the Government will be talking with industry about new regulatory options to manage the risk of drones, including the option of compulsory registration.''

The association is also at odds with the government's approach to high power laser pointers.

The association also wants a ban on the supply, acquisition and use of high-power, battery operated hand-held lasers which can distract pilots around airports.

National MP Hamish Walker's member's bill to do that was drawn from the ballot in September but early signals from the Government indicate it is unlikely to support the legislation, rather it was seeking more research on the impact of existing import restrictions.

''NZALPA has made it clear to the minister of transport that this is dragging the chain, and we will speak out publicly if the bill is defeated without clear progress on complete prohibition of these devices,'' said Handforth.

There is also friction over loans for student pilots.

The association is pushing the government to increase the number of student loans and maximum amount trainee pilots can borrow to fund training for commercial licences which can involve outlay of $120,000.

It has said that if more pilots aren't trained already tight supply will be exacerbated.

Aviation New Zealand figures show the number of Kiwis training as pilots fell from 369 in 2009 to 172 in 2017.

The association believes the Ministry of Education relied on outdated and irrelevant statistics from 2011 to support the Government position on the cap on aviation student borrowing and the limited access to funding.

However, Education Minister Chris Hipkins today said there was no work currently under way on reviewing the size and number of loans of aviation graduates.

"The advice I am receiving is that there is no evidence of a pressing shortage of pilots in New Zealand currently," the minister said.

Background information provided by the minister said the previous National government had capped the size and number of loans because of concern over the low likelihood of repayment on high borrowing and a financial stake in training showing commitment to the aviation sector.