Home' Greymouth Star : November 13th 2014 Contents Tim Hazeldine
ir New Zealand’s lose
some/win some revamp of
its regional air ser vices is
the latest development in a
People have been
grumbling about the airline’s regional
services for some time.
Back in 2011 Air New Zealand
approached me to do a study on this. They
said, as I recall, that they were getting
complaints about their regional airfares;
that they felt that these were not out of
line with other countries, but they were
not sure, and could I carry out, for a fee,
a rigorous unbiased independent study to
find out the truth either way and let them
know the results?
I was actually a bit surprised that they
came to me. A few years earlier, I had
been a vocal opponent of the airline’s
unsuccessful proposal to form a virtual
cartel with their major competitor Qantas.
But, as a result of this case, I had become
interested in airline pricing and related
matters, and so I was willing to take on the
I brought in a Canadian aviation expert,
Professor David Gillen of the University
of British Columbia, to help. We decided
to compare New Zealand with five other
countries or regions — the eastern states
of Australia, Canada, Sweden, Nor way and
three US states of similar population size
to New Zealand.
We found out two big things. First,
in terms of the extent of its services to
regional towns and cities (generally with
populations more than 20,000 and less
than 200,000), New Zealand scored at the
top with 100% — well above the regional
air travel coverage in the other countries.
It is true that the others generally have
better road and/or rail surface travel
alternatives than we can afford in New
Zealand, but, still, you cannot score better
than 100%. Now with Kaitaia, Whakatane
and Westport on the way out, following
Masterton and Wanaka last year, we do
not get a perfect score, but it is still at least
comparable with Australia.
As for the pricing of the regional
ser vices — here we found a striking result.
Controlling for distance and other factors,
Air New Zealand’s regional fares were
significantly lower than those available in
Australia and the other jurisdictions.
To be clear, regional airfares everywhere
tend to be higher than fares on the main
trunk routes joining major cities, with their
high frequency low-cost large-jet ser vices,
but they were higher by much less in New
In early 2013, Air New Zealand asked us
to update our study. We did so; same result.
But that was about 18 months ago. It
does seem that complaints — even by the
Prime Minister — have become more
frequent since then. I began to wonder
if Air New Zealand had been quietly
inflating its regional airfares. I even
wondered — horrible thought — if my
own report might have encouraged them
to do so.
So, without telling the airline or anyone
else, I spent some evenings last month
trolling through the Air New Zealand
website, collecting lowest available regional
airfares for flights 50, 36, 15, eight and one
day ahead (which is what we had looked
at in our studies). I collected nearly one
thousand fares, which seemed like a big
enough sample. I was able to match 871 of
these to comparable flights back in early
2013. There is a great deal of variation up
and down, but the bottom line is this: over
the past year and a half, according to my
sample, Air New Zealand’s regional airfares
have dropped on average by 3.6%, with the
largest percentage falls obser ved on the
most expensive tickets — those purchased
a week or a day before the flight takes off.
The fact is that profitably ser ving “thin”
regional routes is difficult. The little 19-
seat, two-engine aircraft such as Air New
Zealand’s Beech 1900s are not being made
No other major regional airline still flies
them. The last operator to do so in eastern
Australia — Brindabella Airlines — went
belly-up last December.
I do think Air New Zealand is being
psychologically savvy as well as humane in
capping its last-minute regional fares. It is
irrational, but it seems that travellers — or
at least the ones who squawk to the media
— would prefer to face a sold-out flight
rather than have the option of buying the
last seat at a high price or not travelling.
I know it is tough on the people losing
ser vice — including me, who now has
to hike over the Crown Range from
Queenstown to get to my preferred
destination of Wanaka — but unless
governments or councils are willing
to subsidise air ser vice — as they do
extravagantly in the case of urban bus
and rail — it does seem smarter to let
our national carrier get on with its job, to
which I believe it is sincerely committed, of
making the changes necessary to maintain
an efficient, viable regional network over
the long term.
Tim Hazledine is a professor of
economics at the University of Auckland
4 - Thursday, November 13, 2014
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uLetters to the editor
1553 - Lady Jane Grey and others are tried for
treason in England.
1887 - Socialist demonstrators riot at London’s
Trafalgar Square in what is the first Bloody
1893 - Britain agrees to annexation of
Swaziland by the Transvaal.
1909 - Some 250 miners die in
a fire and explosion at the St Paul
Mine at Cherry, Illinois.
1940 - Walt Disney animated
movie Fantasia has its world
premiere in New York.
1975 - World Health Organisation
announces that Asia is free of
smallpox for first time in history.
1985 - The Nevado de Ruiz volcano in
Colombia erupts, sending an avalanche of mud
and rock slamming into the town of Armero.
About 25,000 people die.
2003 - Residents of the remote village of
Nubutautau, on the Fijian island of Viti
Levu, apologise to the descendants of British
missionary, the Rev Thomas Baker. He was
killed and eaten by their ancestors 136 years
earlier — in 1867.
uWest Coast yesteryear
uToday in history
Edward III of England (1312-1377); Robert
Louis Stevenson, Scottish writer (1850-1894);
Madeleine Sher wood, US actress (1922-);
Don Lane, US-born Australian tv
personality (1933-2009); Garry
Marshall, US actor-director-
producer (1934-); Kamahl,
Australian singer (1934-); Chris
Noth, US actor (1954-); Whoopi
Goldberg, US actress (1955-); Jimmy
Kimmel, American comedian and
talk-show host (1967-); Gerard
Butler, Scottish actor (1969-); Samantha Riley,
Australian swimmer (1972-) .
“ History is simply a piece of paper covered
with print; the main thing is still to make
history, not to write it. ” — Otto von Bismarck,
German statesman (1815-1898).
“ But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire
mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have not come to call
the righteous, but sinners. ” — Matthew 9:13.
Sur vey representative
Mr Bill Sara will again
go south next week to sur vey the terminal face
of the Franz Josef Glacier. Mr Sara has been
carrying out this work for several years and his
forthcoming expedition will be to determine
whether the ice is still retreating or advancing
A fortnight ago a report came in that the ice
still appeared to be edging back. “But there has
been a tremendous build-up of snow on the
top and if falls continue the glacier could be
expected to move downhill again,” Mr Sara said.
The falls have resulted in the Aylmer Hut
being covered completely for the first time in
Meanwhile, another report says that the Fox
Glacier is again on the move downhill after
being in retreat for a long period. According to
the chief ranger of the Westland National Park,
Mr G Nicholls, it is within 25ft of linking up
with the dead ice at the old terminal face.
The glacier face was moving like a bulldozer,
pushing up tons of moraine before it, said Mr
The maintenance problem of Greymouth’s
centennial fountain continues to be bounced
between its trustees and the borough council.
The trustees have over recent weeks been
carrying out repairs to the fountain.
When repairs are completed the fountain
will again be given back to the council.
This arrangement was the result of a recent
discussion between the trustees and the council.
The lighted attraction was originally presented
to the people of Greymouth by the Jaycees as a
uFood for thought
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Let Air NZ do its job
The bureaucratic stuff-up that sped
Phillip Smith on his way to Chile, Brazil,
and from there to God knows where, has
exposed one of the most perilous fault lines
in New Zealand society.
On one side of the fault line stand the
experts and professionals. On the other,
ordinary New Zealanders — the laity.
In the modern meritocracy New
Zealand believes itself to be, expertise and
professionalism are supposed to trump the
layperson’s “instincts”, “gut feelings” and
Like the priests and the pastors they
have largely superseded, experts and
professionals lay claim to specialist
knowledge of the world. Their mastery
of the modern “scientific” method of
explaining the universe means that, all
other things being equal, the judgement of
the expert and the professional is supposed
to take precedence over the traditional
prejudices and ignorant superstitions of
But, Phillip Smith’s scandalous escape
from custody will, almost certainly,
turn out to have been facilitated by
the judgements of the experts and
professionals employed by, or contracted to,
the Department of Corrections. Indeed, it
is already pretty clear that had the advice
of the ordinary New Zealanders caught up
in the multiple tragedies caused by Smith’s
offending been heeded, he would still be in
Ordinary people recoil in horror and
disgust from the criminal offences for
which Phillip Smith was convicted.
Their instinctive response is the same
as that of any social animal confronted
with a deadly threat to the sur vival of its
young — kill it if you can, or, if that proves
impossible, drive it from your midst.
The gut-feeling of non-expert, non-
professional New Zealanders is that the
likes of Phillip Smith are irretrievably
evil. As killers, abusers, manipulators and
deceivers they must never, ever, be believed
The common sense of ordinary New
Zealanders tells them that, since the
possibility of judicial error has quite rightly
ruled out the hangman’s noose, then
murderers and paedophiles should simply
be locked up forever.
What part of “predatory child abuser”
and “vicious murderer” do the Department
of Corrections experts and professionals
From the perspective of the experts and
professionals, however, the judgement of
ordinary New Zealanders is as flawed as
it is unjust. Paedophilia is a pathological
condition over which the paedophile
exercises little, if any, control. The proper,
scientific, response to child abuse and
abusers is, therefore, therapeutic — not
Human behaviour is not immutable. It
can be modified, reoriented and, with the
right sort of inter ventions, re-programmed.
It is simply not necessary to lock up
serious offenders in a cage and throw away
the key. To the psychologists, counsellors
and therapists at Corrections, Phillip
Smith was a suitable case for treatment.
But, as Smith’s extraordinarily successful
deception of his psychologists, counsellors
and therapists makes chillingly clear, it was
the experts’ and professionals’ judgement
that was flawed.
Yes, with enormous effort and the
deployment of a host of (scarce)
resources, it might just be possible to
wrap a paedophile around with sufficient
protective layers to make his release from
custody a viable and safe option. And, in
the best of all possible worlds, that is what
our Justice System would attempt to do.
But, this is very far from being the best
of all possible worlds. The wraparound
option does not exist in New Zealand. So
why, in its absence, did Smith’s expert and
professional team keep behaving as if it
did? Was it because Smith, understanding
to perfection their deep emotional
investment in the possibility of his
behavioural redemption, encouraged them
to construe his “model prisoner” charade
as proof that they had, already, redeemed
If that is, indeed, what happened, then
I’m afraid you’ ll have to put me down
with the traditionally prejudiced and the
ignorantly superstitious. A person capable
of pretending to be rehabilitated, while
all the time embracing the per versity
he’s claiming to have vanquished, is evil
The besetting sin of the expert and
professional is their hubristic belief that
everything in nature can and should be
brought under human control. Like Adam
and Eve, tempted in Eden with the fruit
of the Tree of Knowledge, they have fallen
for the devil’s fatal pitch: “In the day ye
eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened,
and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and
evil.” All ordinary people know that the
Chris Trotter is an independent,
left-wing political commentator.
Gut feeling versus expertise
Gods, mousers extraordinaire or
Whatever your view of Felis
silvestris catus, there is no denying
domestic cats are popular — there
are about 600 million worldwide.
The bond with people goes way
back. In Cyprus, the remains of
a human and a cat were found
buried together in a 9500-year-
old grave, pre-dating Egyptian cat
art by about 4000 years.
Scientists believe the
relationship began when people
adopted more agricultural
lifestyles and saw value in keeping
the rodent hunters around.
Unlike other domesticated
animals bred for food, herding,
hunting or security, most of the 30
to 40 cat breeds originated only in
the past 150 years, and selection
was mostly for aesthetic rather
than functional reasons.
However, scientists investigating
changes that occurred during
domestication have found
domestic cats’ genes evolved to
help them thrive in the household
Wesley Warren, of the Genome
Institute in the US, and colleagues
sequenced the genome of a female
Abyssinian — a domestic breed
— a nd compared it with the
genomes of six other domestic
breeds, two wild cat species and
four other mammals.
They found that compared
with their wild counterparts,
domestic felines have changes in
genes involved in memory, fear
learning and alterations that
support increased listening and
This could suggest the
processes by which cats became
The finding were published
in Proceedings of the National
Academy of Sciences. — A AP
Cats cosy up for rewards
Scientists have found that domestic cats’ genes have changed to adapt
to the household environment.
An Air New Zealand Bombardier Q300 at Hokitika Airport.
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