25 Feb 2014

International aviation body may solve Tonga-NZ stand-off over plane

2:21 pm on 25 February 2014

An almost year-long dispute between Tonga and New Zealand over a controversial plane gifted by China could soon be solved.

New Zealand's foreign ministry cancelled an eight-million US-dollar aid package and has a travel advisory on its website, as the MA-60 aircraft is not accredited to a standard it recognises.

Tonga's deputy prime minister, Samiu Vaipulu, has been adamant he won't ask a New Zealand technician to accredit the plane because it would offend the Chinese donors.

A tourism specialist and member of Tonga's tourism board, Shane Walker, says he has been told by New Zealand government officials that the International Civil Aviation Organisation may have stepped in to solve the stand-off.

"It's my understanding that everyone has agreed to do the work required to appease New Zealand's concerns and we're optimistic that a certification process will be put in place that's acceptable to New Zealand, so it should be good news for Tonga."

Shane Walker.