8 May 2021

Air NZ exempts Five Eyes military agencies from strict signoffs

5:20 pm on 8 May 2021

Air New Zealand has escalated signoffs needed for projects in the wake of revelations its subsidiary worked for Saudi Arabia's military.

 air new zealand boeing 777-219 inflight mid-air after taking off from hong kong international airport on chek lap kok island.

Photo: camfoto/123RF

However, Air New Zealand has exempted Five Eyes countries from some of these restrictions, according to documents obtained under the Official Information Act.

The company came under fire in February after TVNZ reported its gas turbines unit was carrying out repair work on planes for the Royal Saudi Navy. The revelations fuelled concerns New Zealand may have assisted with Saudi Arabia's controversial military intervention in Yemen.

Air New Zealand terminated its contracts with the navy and commissioned a review, which was completed in April but has not been publicly released.

A letter Air New Zealand board chairperson Dame Therese Walsh wrote to Finance Minister Grant Robertson reveals the interim measures it rolled out in February.

Under the changes, Air New Zealand's chief operating officer would have to sign off all company projects involving military agencies.

This also applies to all non-military projects involving the gas turbines unit, with the exception of Five Eyes countries.

"We quickly recognised the need for improvements in our escalation processes for approval any naval military work," the letter said.

It is unclear what changes, if any, a PwC review commissioned by Air New Zealand brought about.

"Recommendations include more focus on upfront risk assessment, which has already been put in place, and subsequent monitoring controls," the company said of the review last month.

New Zealand's Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade is carrying out a review of its military export controls regime led by David Smol in response to the Air New Zealand revelations.

The ministry has already cleared Air New Zealand and itself by determining the engines being repaired were not a controlled good.

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