It’s not just NZ. Look at VA loads compared to other airlines in similar markets.
And with regards to NZ every other airline maintained their loads.... VA the only one to plummet. Others maintained mid to high 80s in a traditionally quiet month.
It was claimed on here, repeatedly, via some throwaway comment in an article, that 70 per cent of VA's bookings on the Tasman came from the "NZ side", that is, via air New Zealand distribution channels. So one would expect massive declines in VA pax numbers, if that were the case. Instead, they dropped by 2.8 per cent. Not great, but not catastrophic.
As has also been discussed ad nauseum by New Zealand forum members, VA hasn't had much of a marketing presence in New Zealand since the NZ-tie up - as if billboards aren't just about the most anachronistic form of marketing in the digital age. This is starting to build now and likely in conjunction with other sales channels. A lot of capacity has been injected into the market by VA - it takes time for this to be absorbed and passenger numbers in the very first full month of independent ops are not a great indicator of long-term success or otherwise, just like the full J classes on my two SYD-AKL Virgin flights last week aren't either.
The expectation of immediate results is pretty ridiculous. 12 months from now, sure. Month 1, please
Meanwhile, freight has grown considerably on international routes by about 36 per cent and USA services have enjoyed a nearly 20 per cent increase in pax, with overall international pax up by 9.5 per cent. So yeah, context helps. Even then, this is only part of the story - yields etc.