17 Oct 2013

NZ foreign minister stands firm on witholding tourism aid to Tonga

2:44 pm on 17 October 2013

New Zealand's foreign minister says he will keep withholding tourism funding to Tonga until a plane gifted by China is certified by a respected international authority - despite China insisting it is safe.

In July, New Zealand has suspended eight million US dollars in tourism aid to Tonga amid safety concerns with the domestic MA60 aircraft, and has issued a travel advisory for New Zealanders using it.

Murray McCully says he has spoken to Chinese authorities and understands their concerns.

But he says the aircraft is not certified in New Zealand or comparable jurisdictions, such as Australia, the US and the European Union.

"The Chinese obviously want to defend the reputation of the aircraft. That's perfectly understood by us. That doesn't change the fact that I want to see a respected international certification process be undertaken in respect of this plane if it going to attract funding from the New Zealand public."

The New Zealand foreign minister, Murray McCully.

An International Civil Aviation Organisation spokesperson has said Tonga has certified the MA60 itself under the Convention on International Civil Aviation.