16 Jul 2013

Tonga stresses aviation safety amid NZ criticism

1:31 pm on 16 July 2013

Tonga's prime minister Lord Tu'ivakano says aviation safety in the Kingdom is the government's priority.

His comments are in response to safety concerns surrounding the new MA-60 airplane gifted by China and to be used on domestic routes by Real Tonga airline.

New Zealand's foreign minister, Murray McCully, suspended eight million US dollars worth of tourism aid to Tonga for the plane failing to meet New Zealand standards.

In a statement, Lord Tu'ivakano says Tonga government regulation is in accordance with international standards.

He says measures were taken with appropriate technical support to ensure compliance before any certification of the new aircraft was provided.

Lord Tu'ivakano says the premature concerns expressed has fed an unfortunate series of superficial media reports that will only hurt Tonga.

He added this will set back the government's efforts to develop Tonga as a key tourist destination, and cost the Kingdom millions.