TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — Air New Zealand has reportedly discontinued repairing engines for Taiwan's Navy over fears of "reputational issues" that could affect New Zealand's trade ties with China.
Following a scandal in which Air New Zealand's Gas Turbines team had been found in 2021 to be repairing engines for the Saudi navy, the airline halted repairs, apologized, and ordered an external investigation. On Wednesday (June 22), 1 News reported that shortly after the Saudi scandal broke, Air New Zealand CEO Greg Foran and New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT) Deputy Chief Executive Ben King held a phone call in which the two discussed similar work being carried out for Taiwan and Turkey and the "reputational issues" this might entail.
Further details of the discussion over Taiwan and Turkey were redacted under Section 6(a) of the Official Information Act, indicating the ministry was concerned such information could "prejudice the security or defense of New Zealand or the international relations of the Government of New Zealand. Finance Minister Grant Robertson on Wednesday claimed that he was not aware of the content of the phone call but said that the government had made it clear that it had "serious concerns last year about the nature of the work Gas Turbines was engaging in."
Green Party Foreign Affairs Spokesperson Golriz Ghahraman expressed her belief to the news agency that MFAT was concerned that the project with the Taiwan Navy could have led to "Chinese retaliation on trade." Ghahraman added that "To see them interfere to stop assistance to a country like Taiwan really crystallizes the fact that trade interests were being prioritized over human rights."
Air New Zealand told 1 News that management had "made the decision to complete work underway for the Taiwanese Navy and not to complete any further work." It stated that management deemed the Taiwanese and Turkish navies "not to be strategic customers" and that the firm had chosen to focus on clients with which it had "long term business relationships."