We’re calling for a public inquiry into the CAA

The GAA dossier

The GAA is seeking a public inquiry into the Civil Aviation Authority.

On 5 April, the GAA released a report detailing known and alleged CAA failures and shortcomings and another showing the results of the independent CAA client satisfaction survey. The dossier of failures and shortcomings has taken about six years to compile. It contains evidence of failures by the Authority and its governing board.

The survey results are supported by hundreds of complaints that range from poor staff attitudes and behaviours to a series of claims that the CAA is not even complying with its duty to promote and maintain general aviation safety.

These documents reveal serious problems, as well as unrest and distrust of the Authority among New Zealand’s general aviation community.

The GAA says the Authority is failing because:

  • public confidence has been damaged by two serious lapses of integrity, at board and senior management levels
  • the relationship between the CAA and its clients in general aviation is at an all-time low
  • two suicides have been linked to CAA investigations
  • the Authority cannot be trusted to maintain confidentiality. The names of whistle-blowers fell into the hands of defendants and the CAA failed to explain why
  • the judgement of senior management has been found faulty in several legal cases
  • the CAA does not deliver value for money. Charging $284 an hour, it compares badly with Australia’s aviation authority, where the highest hourly rate is $190 and the lowest is $100
  • severe increases in CAA charges between 2012 and 2017 were not matched by service or efficiency improvements, and have harmed the general aviation industry
  • New Zealand is alone among developed countries in lacking an independent, confidential, no-blame safety incident reporting system. The Authority refuses to follow this international best practice. It also stands accused of ignoring many incident reports
  • regulations are being misunderstood or misinterpreted by CAA staff, resulting in unlawful or irregular demands and unjustified charges
  •  the CAA has made unlawful use of Advisory Circulars, contradicting its own regulations
  • the Official Information Act and the Privacy Act are being misused to serve CAA interests and hinder the supply of information
  • the CAA regularly fails to honour its own Service Charter
  • it refuses to measure client satisfaction levels, and does not properly consult customers
  • users do not trust the CAA’s internal investigations of complaints. New Zealand has no independent aviation complaints authority – unlike Australia, for example

The GAA’s report highlights a conflict of interest by former CAA board deputy chairman Peter Griffiths, who resigned when it was revealed he used inside information to prematurely inform a competitor company (in which he had a financial interest) of the CAA’s closure of provincial operator Sunair.

Investigating QC Mary Scholtens found that Griffiths had committed a breach of trust involving a conflict of interest and that poor management played a role.

The GAA report also notes the case of Paul Mitchell Jones, a CAA flight operations inspector who claimed aviation qualifications he did not hold, in a sworn court affidavit.

The GAA says that the CAA Board and the CAA’s Director have failed to meet the required standards of governance.

“The Board has been shown incapable of controlling its members, but adept at protecting itself,” says GAA co-principal Brian Mackie.

“The rules governing qualification for board directorship must be changed to exclude people with a financial interest in aviation companies or any associated commercial activity.

“We believe that the CAA itself has become dysfunctional as the regulator of general aviation. The results of our customer survey strongly support this.

“The issues can only be properly examined through an independent inquiry. New Zealand requires a national general aviation strategy and a regulatory authority that recognises GA’s position in the economy and works with the industry instead of appearing to obstruct it. We need a radical change of emphasis, from policeman to partner.”

You can download the report here