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Live within your means – Minister Brownlee’s promise after the 2012 review

Brownlee may have gone away, but we haven't

Brownlee may have gone away, but we haven’t

I’ve already expressed my view that the CAA’s proposed new levies on commercial general aviation are some of the most draconian steps I have ever seen attempted, although I am assured they rank up there with the epic pricing debacle of the early 1990s.

Well, it would appear our former Minister of Transport nailed the CAA’s feet firmly to the ground when he said:

for the period of the next funding review (that is 2015-2018) the Civil Aviation Authority will look to decrease costs so that fees and charges reflect full cost recovery from 2015/16 and the need for further increases is reduced or removed…”

It’s time to deliver.

Has the CAA looked to decrease its costs? To be fair, it’s a mixed bag – some “ups” pushed by such things as the agreement with Airways on the AIP ($2m plus CPI adjustments) and SMS; and some “downs” such as shared services with AvSec.

BUT the net effect has been, as disclosed in the CAA consultation document, to push up the full cost recovery hourly rate calculated on the same basis as in the 2012 review to $466 per hour. Under the Treasury and Audit Office guidelines on charging for public services, this is the rate CAA should be charging industry – and could charge, unless costs are controlled at the 2019 review.

There was a quid pro quo in 2012 – Ministers formed the view that the industry had to “suck up” the increases – but there would be no more. The clear message: the CAA must live within its means.

We do agree that its “means” are pretty gold-plated compared to what we ordinary people in industry are used to, but nevertheless the message from Ministers was clear: Enough is enough.

Ministers come and go and Minister Brownlee handed the reins to Minister Bridges. But the problem remains.

Our lobbying programme is reminding everyone of the Cabinet’s undertaking.

For those who have responded to our survey and wanted further action, we have drafted letters for them to send to their MPs. We have also been in contact with and spoken to many more commercial GA companies. Each has been grateful for the assistance we are providing.

We are not suggesting that commercial GA shouldn’t continue its contributions towards the costs of running the CAA, but we are opposing the imposition of any new levies.

Levies are taxes that reduce financial accountability. They are the beginning of the slippery slope towards future revenue hikes. An hourly rate of $466 is simply ridiculous.

Let’s be clear:-

  • The CAA does not need $1.792m from GA commercial – present reserve levels are almost 300% higher than stated as required in the 2012 Cabinet paper.
  • Minister Brownlee’s 2012 assurances were an undertaking to reduce costs and remove the threat of further increases.
  • The CAA is not delivering value for money – commercial General Aviation is reporting little if any improvement in services.
  • The new levy “pays” for services which commercial GA already funds via the participation levy.
  • The CAA’s communication of proposals was too complex, lacked the critical financial information justifying the $1.792m increase, and occurred during peak season.

A quick reminder of the increased charges being proposed;

  • Introduction of new levies for commercial General Aviation (3-year phase-in):
Parachuting/Paragliding operators $2.50 per descent
Commercial Passenger operators (Medium/Large aeroplanes) $5.50 per flight hour
Commercial Passenger operators (Small aeroplanes and helicopters) $6.50 per flight hour
Adventure Aviation operators $12.50 per flight hour
Freight only operators $3.00 per tonne
Agricultural operators $0.87 per tonne

 

  • Existing levies (Passenger and Participation) to be retained.
  • Removal of hourly rate charging for all CAA audits.
  • A claimed 30% reduction in the pilot medical certificate application fee, which on closer examination was proved to be CAA sleight of hand: The Authority first increased the existing fee by 23% (to $404.71) and then reduced the new total by 52%, to $210.45. A genuine 30% reduction would put the charge at $162.76.
  • CAA annual income requirement projected to increase from $38m (2016) to $43m (2019)
    • o Removal of hourly rate audit charge – $2.24 m
    • o Reduction in medical cert fee – $0.8m
    • o Passenger levy + $6m
    • o New GA levies +$1.792m
  • CAA actual reserves $10.2m; targeted reserve $3.6m

We understand the CAA Board has considered and reconsidered the final recommendations. Adjustments to the levy rates have been flagged but the CAA continues to pursue the new levy on commercial GA.

There are now well over 50 letters with key Ministers and MPs. Each of them requests a one-on-one meeting with the MP to raise “parliamentary awareness” of the issue.

If you are opposed to these new levies and want to join our campaign, let us know and we will help you. We know we still have a bit more time as the Minister hasn’t received the CAA’s final recommendations. We will only overturn these levies if we speak with one voice and deliver the same message:;

LIVE WITHIN YOUR MEANS – deliver on Brownlee’s undertaking

We are not going to go away, and we will use every possible avenue to get these new taxes on commercial GA removed.

 

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