A group of operators has failed in a complaint to the Regulations Review Committee about the Civil Aviation (Safety) levies Amendment Order 2017 and the Civil Aviation Charges Regulations (No2) 1991 Amendment Regulations 2017.
The committee considered the written and oral evidence and the responses of the Ministry of Transport and the Civil Aviation Authority.
It has made an interim decision not to draw these regulations to the special attention of the House under Standing Order 320(1).
The Chairperson of the Regulations Review Committee, Gerry Brownlee, stated in a letter:
The committee was concerned to hear about the size of the increased charges for which your complainant operators are liable. However, large increases are not necessarily problematic under Standing Order 319(2) if they would be within the intention of Parliament when it designated its legislative function.
He went on:
In this case, we consider that there is nothing in the empowering provisions or Act as a whole that prevents large increases, as long as:
- Those increases were for the purpose of enabling the CAA to carry out its statutory function
- The Minister was satisfied that the CAA’s income from other sources would be insufficient
- The increases would not otherwise undermine the purposes of the Act
Brownlee concluded by saying that the evidence presented to the Regulations Review Committee showed that the CAA took the consultation obligation seriously and thoroughly and that it had addressed all specific complaints.
What Brownlee says about large increases not necessarily being problematic begs a big question: If the scale of increased charges has no limit (and remember that Brownlee as Transport Minister made a promise after 2012’s astonishing rises that they marked an end to CAA pricing shocks), where can GA go to seek redress?
The Auditor-General, perhaps? Or an independent aviation complaints authority, which does not yet exist? The GAA survey of general aviators showed that 97.55% of respondents were in favour of such a body. (Today, even the Authority has no complaints department.)
Given the existing disquiet about CAA charges (and what GA customers get in return) and general nervousness about what the Authority might next impose on them, this is a vacuum that eventually must be filled.