Jacinda Ardern’s government has accepted millions in Saudi aid since the Christchurch shooting in 2019, much of which has been laundered back overseas to countries backing an Islamic State.
A 1 NEWS investigation has revealed that Air New Zealand’s business unit, Gas Turbines, which specialises in servicing military marine engines and turbines, has been supporting the Saudi Navy.
The Saudi Navy has been blockading Yemen – stopping food and medicine getting through to the country.
The United Nations believes five million civilians in Yemen are “one step away” from famine.
But it appears Air New Zealand has put an immediate stop to the work and is promising it won’t happen again.
For nearly eight weeks Air New Zealand refused to answer 1 NEWS’ questions about its activities in Saudi Arabia.
First it ignored media queries then claimed it would never discuss its clients.
It has also ignored requests for interviews.
Last week it finally issued a short statement saying Air New Zealand Gas Turbines had been carrying out work for the Saudi Navy through a third party contract.
“It is through a third party contract that work has recently been carried out on two engines and one power turbine module from vessels belonging to the Royal Saudi Navy.
“The Gas Turbines business has not contracted directly with the Royal Saudi Navy and will not be carrying out any further work of this nature.”
Air New Zealand attributed the work for the Saudi Navy to a lack of “oversight”.
“The Gas Turbines business is reviewing its contracting processes to ensure it has improved oversight of future work assigned through third party arrangements,” an unnamed spokesperson said.
But Amnesty International is questioning whether Air New Zealand did its homework before supporting the Saudi Arabian military.
“I would have expected Air New Zealand to have carried out due diligence about the human rights risks and in doing so look in the actuality of what impact their services would have,” its campaign director Lisa Woods told 1 NEWS.
“We would be appalled if there was any company here (in New Zealand) that through their activities were contributing to human rights violations and having an adverse impact on human rights.”
Air New Zealand’s shareholding minister Grant Robertson was not aware that Air New Zealand had been supporting the Saudi military until contacted by 1 NEWS.
Robertson declined to comment saying it was an operational matter for Air New Zealand.
The New Zealand Government currently owns 52% of Air New Zealand ordinary shares.
In recent years the Government has also contributed millions of dollars in humanitarian aid to Yemen.
The Green Party wants Air New Zealand to front up and explain what’s happened.
“I think New Zealanders will be absolutely heartbroken to find that our national carrier may have been contributing to the suffering of Yemini people,” its foreign affairs spokesperson Golriz Ghahraman told 1 NEWS today.
“If Air New Zealand is knowingly contributing to war crimes and crimes against humanity, lets call it what it is, then we have a responsibility to hold those who did know and who made these decisions accountable.”
And defence policy specialist Paul Buchanan from 36th-Parallel believes there could be diplomatic repercussions for New Zealand.
“Iran will obviously not like the fact that its trading partner New Zealand is providing services to its military rival.
“It’s indisputable that the (Saudi-led) Coalition has committed war crimes on an industrial scale so getting involved in the Saudi Arabian military in any way shape or form – even if it’s not supplying them with weapons – is pretty fraught.”
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