On 26 April 2012, the government issued a National Airspace Policy statement (PDF 174KB). The Policy provides guidance to the aviation sector on the future direction of airspace design and designation, and the principles that will be followed in decision-making on airspace matters.

The policy sets the framework under which the Civil Aviation Authority will develop the National Airspace and Air Navigation Plan, which will guide the aviation sector regarding future airspace design and the new and emerging technologies to be employed in communications, navigation and surveillance/air traffic management. This will help to provide certainty for the aviation sector’s future investments in air navigation and air traffic management equipment.

The National Airspace Policy was developed by the Ministry of Transport, in collaboration with the Civil Aviation Authority and the National Airspace and Air Navigation Advisory Forum, which consists of representatives of:

  • Air Line Pilots’ Association
  • Air New Zealand
  • Airports Association
  • Aviation Federation
  • Aviation Industry Association
  • The Airways Corporation of New Zealand
  • Board of Airline Representatives
  • Metservice
  • New Zealand Defence Force
  • Virgin Australia (New Zealand) Limited
  • Qantas Airways (on behalf of the Qantas Group)


The National Airspace Policy establishes four principles for the future administration of New Zealand’s airspace by the Civil Aviation Authority:


That New Zealand’s airspace will be managed holistically with safety as the principal objective.


That New Zealand’s airspace classification and air traffic services shall be compatible with international standards or best practice; and that New Zealand will manage international airspace assigned to it by the International Civil Aviation Organization consistent with international standards and best practice.

Protection of national interests

The Civil Aviation Authority will continue to be able to designate areas of restricted airspace for military purposes, national emergencies, search and rescue operations, and in any other situation where it is deemed necessary in the interests of safety. Under normal circumstances, the New Zealand Defence Force is expected to have regard to the Civil Aviation Authority’s designation of airspace in its operations, but under exceptional circumstances it will be able to operate freely and without restriction in any New Zealand airspace.


Except where restrictions on airspace access are necessary for safety, operational, or other reasons, all aircraft will be able to access such classes of airspace that the aircraft and crew are able to operate safely within.

Provision of Air traffic management and air navigation services

There are two principles relating to the future provision of Air traffic management and air navigation services (currently the Airways Corporation is the sole provider, but aerodrome air traffic services are contestable):


The cost of providing services will continue to be recovered on a commercial basis with regard to legislation and, where appropriate, charging guidelines issued by the International Civil Aviation Organization.


The supporting systems and infrastructure will ensure that any disruption to the network as a result of natural disasters or interference is mitigated to the extent possible.

The policy recognises that safety is, and will continue to be, the primary objective of the airspace and air navigation system in New Zealand. Any new technologies, systems or procedures will be assessed against the benchmark of the overall safety of the system being at least maintained, and ideally, improved.

Desired attributes

However, the policy sets out a number of other desired attributes of New Zealand’s future airspace and air navigation system, which will be pursued as much as possible without compromising safety. These attributes are:


The air navigation system and the design and classification of airspace will facilitate the efficient operation of aircraft within New Zealand airspace.

Environmentally responsible

The future airspace and air navigation system will be respectful of the impacts of aviation on the environment, and any development that can reduce the overall environmental impact of aviation will be pursued as long as it can be achieved safely and at reasonable cost.


The aviation sector and local authorities will proactively address their respective interests in any future planning to facilitate the adoption of more efficient aircraft arrival and departure paths in a timely way and to avoid or mitigate incompatible land uses or activities and potential impacts or hazards that will impact, or have the potential to impact on the safe and efficient operation of aircraft.


The National Airspace and Air Navigation Plan will be compatible with other global and regional plans, including the International Civil Aviation Organization’s Global Air Navigation Plan, as much as practicable while taking into account any unique aspects of airspace and air traffic management in New Zealand.

Further information

Read Minister of Transport Gerry Brownlee's media statement(external link)

Read the questions and answers on the Airspace Policy and Plan

Read the National Airspace Policy statement (PDF 174KB)