Shane Jones v Air NZ: Jacinda Ardern reprimands Shane Jones for saying Air NZ CEO, board chair should resign

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has attempted to put a muzzle on Shane Jones.

The NZ First MP believes he is building a "chorus of support" over the issue. Source: 1 NEWS

Ms Ardern moved to shut down her regional economic development minister today after he continued attacks on Air New Zealand, calling for their CEO to step down if he wanted to talk politics instead of business.

"Calling for the sacking of any board member is a step too far and i have told Shane Jones that," she told media today. 

"I have certainly explained to him that he is absolutely entitled to an opinion which he has shared, but suggesting anyone from the board should go is a step too far."

When asked if Mr Jones' actions were means for stepping down, Ms Ardern said: "This is not a sacking offence. not for any Air New Zealand board member, not for Shane."

"He's expressed an opinion, one that i know some New Zealanders will certainly share some sympathy for, particularly those in the regions, but suggesting someone should be sacked is too far."

After attacking Air NZ yesterday for what he perceives as them failing the regions, Mr Jones stepped it up a notch this morning.

"If you want to be a politician step down today ... otherwise get back into your box," Mr Jones said in reference to CEO Christopher Luxton.

He went on to tell Mr Luxton, through an interview with RNZ: "Don't jump into the political boxing ring ... you are an executive ... your job is not to be a publicity officer and try and thwart the legitimate role of a Parliamentarian."

He also hammered the Air NZ board: "The essence of corporate accountability is that shareholders put pressure on the board to test whether or not their strategy is fit for purpose," he told RNZ.

"In terms of the growth and connectivity in provincial New Zealand it will not increase unless that board changes."

Following Mr Jones' comments this morning National Party Economic and Regional Development spokesperson Paul Goldsmith sent out a statement saying: "Jones needs to get some discipline".

"While some regional New Zealanders may share Mr Jones' frustration with air services, Shane Jones is going too far indulging in personal attacks on business leaders," Mr Goldsmith wrote.

"Attacking public companies is a strange approach to economic development.

"It is up to Air New Zealand to defend its record in regional New Zealand, and it's perfectly appropriate for politicians to raise questions of performance ... what's not acceptable is a style of politics based on attacks on businesses and their leaders."

It seems the prime minster agreed, reprimanding Jones for today's remarks.

Air New Zealand chairman Tony Carter defends his airline

His comments follow Air New Zealand announcing, earlier this month, it would no longer conduct flights to the Kapiti Coast -  flights to Kaitaia were halted in 2015.

Air New Zealand chairman Tony Carter has defended his airline, this morning telling Morning Report that Air New Zealand's independence from government - in terms of making decisions based on profit, not public benefit - has paid off with strong growth.

The airline is 52 per cent owned by the government, but has no official obligations to the public other than returning a profit.

Mr Carter yesterday wrote a letter to Finance Minister Grant Robertson in response to the criticism, saying "any appearance of a lack of commercial independence is viewed seriously by the Air New Zealand Board and is ultimately potentially damaging to the interests of all shareholders, including the Crown".

The NZ First MP's comments follow the carrier's decision to cut flights between Kapiti Coast and Christchurch. Source: 1 NEWS

Mr Luxton agreed with that sentiment during an interview on radio today.

Last month Air NZ announced a record half year profit of $232m.

The Prime Minister says calling for the sacking of any board member is a step too far. Source: 1 NEWS