A sudden spate of controversies have thrust the airport into the media spotlight, writes Catherine McGregor in this excerpt from The Bulletin, The Spinoff’s morning news round-up. To receive The Bulletin in full each weekday, sign up here.
Michael Wood divests at last
After 25 years and 12 reminders to sell, Michael Wood is officially free of the handful of Auckland airport shares that have cost him his job, at least temporarily. His shares were sold for around $16,400, the proceeds to be donated to Anglican Trust for Women and Children… and that should be the end of that. But of course the saga is still not over. Parliament’s registrar of pecuniary interests has launched an inquiry into Wood’s failure to properly disclose the shares, and Newsroom’s Jonathan Milne has resurfaced reporting from 2021 in which Wood baldly stated he hadn’t left anything off the registrar for that year. It was, writes Milne, “more than an error of omission; he directly and explicitly told me he had no other pecuniary interests. That was simply untrue.” Meanwhile it seems some green ink and a badly positioned cursor helped contribute to Wood’s declaration woes, reports Newshub’s Lloyd Burr.
‘Unforced, amateur errors’
Wood wasn’t the only government minister in the spotlight. Education minister Jan Tinetti appeared before the privileges committee (here’s a good explainer on why) where she expressed regret but said she had “absolutely no intention to mislead the House”. “There were two ministers heads down in the naughty seats on Thursday,” writes Jenna Lynch of Newshub, who says Tinetti and Wood’s “political crimes are unforced, amateur errors” which have left PM Chris Hipkins looking like he’s “steering a rickety rookie ship”. Stuff’s Luke Malpass notes that while Wood is only suspended as transport minister, Hipkins has learnt some tough lessons from the Stuart Nash saga. The PM “doesn’t want to give National a scalp here. But equally, he cannot afford for this to drag on”. It’s an election year after all, and perception is paramount. Toby Manhire reports this morning on a new Ipsos poll that reveals the public’s trust in Labour is slipping, with an increasing number of voters believing National is better placed to handle top issues including law and order and housing.
Auckland councillor reveals $3 million airport shareholding
As Anna Rawhiti-Connell noted in yesterday’s Bulletin, the debate over the proposed sale of Auckland Council’s airport shares had already prompted councillors Chris Darby and Julie Fairey (Wood’s wife) to declare their spouses’ shareholdings. On Thursday, Albany councillor Wayne Walker gazumped them both with the revelation that he is the beneficiary of a $3 million shareholding in the airport held in the estate of his late father. It was another twist in the ongoing debate over the council’s proposed budget, which may drag on into next week. Mayor Wayne Brown failed to win over councillors on a complete sale of the council’s airport shares and now is proposing a partial sale, leaving a budget hole that will require a small increase to the proposed average rates rise, and larger spending cuts.
Airlines roast $4 billion airport upgrade
Think that’s all the Auckland Airport news we have for you? Think again. The country’s major air travel hub was back in the news when its two biggest customers – Air New Zealand and Qantas – joined forces to oppose its planned $3.9 billion upgrade. It’s “an enormous spend over a short period of time that adds almost no additional capacity” said Air NZ CEO Greg Foran, who argued that the only guaranteed result would be “more costs for everyone”, including passengers. As The Spinoff’s Stewart Sowman-Lund wryly notes, Thursday was a stressful day to be Auckland Airport.