How the CAA will damage DoC: A pilot speaks out

22 January 2013 / by the GAA team / Costs

The CAA’s fee increases will have unintended consequences, if helicopter pilot Kevin Campbell’s story is an indicator. Kevin is from Napier, but currently flies in Papua New Guinea. When he’s back home, Kevin is active in conservation work. But much of that is about to end, thanks to the CAA, he says.

Kevin wrote this to his local MP, National’s Chris Tremain:

Dear Mr Tremain

I am a 60-year-old pilot. I have over 40 years’ experience in agricultural aviation and the wider helicopter industry. You are our elected Member of Parliament and have had the support of my wife and I in the last two elections. I write to you in an endeavour to learn your stance on the pilot medical renewal fees imposed by the New Zealand Civil Aviation Authority. These fees have been approved under your Government.

After the 1st of November [2012] a pilot wishing to renew a medical certificate must apply to the NZ CAA for the privilege, at a cost of $313.00. There is no charge of this nature presently. NZ CAA does not do the medical examination, nor issue the medical certificate. This is done by approved aviation doctors and assessors. It is still to be this way. Issuing medical certificates costs the NZ CAA nothing and yet we are now to be levied $313 for a service that has not previously existed and there is no evidence that there is any new service provided. Is this just a new “tax” brought upon us by bureaucrats and apparently with your approval? How was this fee arrived at?

You may think that a new charge of $313 is not much to pay for a medical certificate. It is not for a medical certificate. It is for nothing. I pay the medical examiner $350-$400, depending on requirements, for the work he does in this regard. It gets worse. I am over 40 years of age, therefore I am required to carry this out every six months. New Zealand is one of few countries with such stringent requirements. It is not widely accepted by the international aviation medical fraternity that there is sufficient risk presented by pilots over 40 years old. We are already one of the most highly “taxed” nations in this regard. I presently pay approximately $700 – $800 per year to maintain my New Zealand medical certificate. Now I will be paying $1400 -$1600 per year. I get nothing more in return. How can you justify this, please?

You may think that pilots are big earners, so a “tax” of this nature will mean little. Many younger pilots earn the minimum wage. I am a far greater earner than most, but there is a catch. Because I have considerable experience, I am one of the increasing numbers of expatriate Kiwis who have turned their backs on New Zealand to make a successful living; one of those that Mr John Key says he would prefer to have working in New Zealand. Why should Mr Key be surprised that those of us who have the skills required by other nations choose to do so when confronted with such gross usury by bureaucrats supported by his government?

And so it is quite likely that New Zealand will be getting even less funding from me in future. I will probably not bother to pay the new fees. I will forgo my right to exercise the privileges of my New Zealand pilot licences. I will not have the qualifications I have attained since 1971 held to ransom by inept government bureaucrats in New Zealand. I can continue to earn my money overseas and will pay my taxes there as well.

You may think, so what? Where is the loss to New Zealand? Well, I have considerable leave time that I choose to spend in New Zealand with my wife and family. One of the things I do in that time is support conservation; primarily these notable Hawke’s Bay efforts: The Cape Sanctuary, under the leadership of Mr Andy Lowe, the Forest Life Force Restoration Trust at Maungataniwha under Mr Simon Hall, the Waikaremoana Iwi kiwi protection fence project at Lake Waikaremoana under Dr John McLennan and the kiwi protection project under the Maori trustees at Ruahine Corner. All have had the benefit of my services, for free, and I have been pleased to have helped. I spend considerable time in an active role as a volunteer on the ground. I also donate my services as a helicopter pilot to these worthy causes. Indeed, I have just completed a week on Kapiti Island helping capture Red Crowned Kakariki and just this morning flying in a helicopter to release them at Cape Kidnappers. I have also directly donated my professional services, for free, to the Department of Conservation, along with Mr Lowe’s kind provision of his helicopter. On board were many senior DOC personnel, including the Area Conservator and The Director General. On my coffee table sits a photographic book entitled, “Majestic New Zealand.” It was presented to me after providing services, as a volunteer, flying for the Napier Department of Conservation.

Inside, an inscription reads:

Kevin – Thank you for what you are doing for conservation. It’s people like you who add value and make a difference. We appreciate it.

Al Morrison, Director-General,
Dept of Conservation.

Do you see the irony? Sadly, I am not prepared to pay a new and unjustified tax to one government department for the privilege to be able to provide my services, for free, to another and wider conservation efforts in general.

I have not seen such unjustified, and blatant, revenue-gathering activities since the 1973 Labour Government placed road tax on aviation fuel, which has never been withdrawn by successive National Governments either, I believe. I am finding it increasingly difficult to continue my support for the present Government when I see the sorts of policies that I would have historically thought were reserved to a Labour government.

For your further education, you could investigate:

Here is a direct quote: “The authority’s move from Petone to the Asteron Centre in Wellington’s Featherston St, which was criticised in 2009 by then Transport Minister Steven Joyce for costing $8.5m, was ‘undoubtedly’ a driver behind the new charges, King said. In a statement, the authority conceded the fee increases would not have been as much if it had stayed in Petone.”

This latest move will be the fourth time the NZ CAA has moved headquarters during my aviation career. Each time, they have been criticised for costing the aviation sector with their poor decisions in their move to more salubrious offices. Can you please find out for us who the individuals are making decisions and then forcing us to pay for them?

In closing, Mr Tremain, I ask you to take my points into consideration and I would like a reply from you as to whether you are prepared to take any stance against the fees outlined above and so continue to receive my electoral support in the future. There is a rising swell of resentment in the aviation industry over this affair and I am one of many choosing to write to our respective MPs to make them aware of this.

Somehow, Kevin’s first letter did not receive a reply, so he sent it again, with this [edited] addition:

Since I wrote to you, NZ CAA has come out with yet another travesty: an ill-considered attempt to tamper with the process of flight instruction within New Zealand. It is nothing short of a new attempt to ransom the qualifications of experienced pilots, which we have held at no charge for years, and in my case about 30 years.

NZ CAA offers no data to back up its decision. I have more experience than most of the bureaucrats in the NZ CAA and can see that this is yet another matter that can only result in lowering of the safety of aviation within New Zealand.

When Mr Tremain replies, we’ll publish his answer.