27 Jan 2010

Amid ferry problems, NZAid charters flights for Tongan students

1:04 pm on 27 January 2010

New Zealand's aid agency, NZAid, is paying for charter flights for Tongan students to get to school after the country's only remaining ferry has been declared unsafe.

A New Zealand marine surveyor declared the 25-year old MV Pulupaki unfit to sail.

Last week, Tonga's transport ministry detained the ferry, but allowed it to attend to a rescue operation of reportedly another unsafe ship over the weekend.

The aid agency's spokesperson, Adham Crichton, says it's helping children to attend classes.

"In response to a direct request from the Tongan government New Zealand and Australia have been working to organise charter flights for school students who need to travel from the outer islands to Nukualofa for the start of the school year."

Adham Crichton says New Zealand is working with Tonga to find an interim ferry.

Hundreds of people are affected by the ferry problems, which also affects the shipping of supplies to the islands.