13 Aug 2013

NZ's McCully stands firm on Tonga's controversial plane

7:03 am on 13 August 2013

New Zealand's Foreign Minister says he will remain withholding tourism funding to Tonga until a controversial plane in its domestic fleet is internationally certified.

Murray McCully has warned tourists against taking the MA60 aircraft, which started flying from Tongatapu to Vava'u at the weekend.

The deputy Prime Minister of Tonga, Samiu Vaipulu, says the New Zealand High Commissioner took a flight on the MA60, which was a vote of confidence in the aircraft, and it is only an issue with Mr McCully.

Mr McCully, who is on his annual Pacific mission, says tourism is a good way to help the Tongan economy, but safety of tourists comes first.

"I'm not going to get into a slinging match with Deputy Prime Minister Vaipulu. All I'll say is that he's not an aviation expert, nor am I. Let's try and see these things dealt with by reputable international agencies and I continue to offer New Zealand government assistance in any way that we can to support them to have this plane certified through an appropriate authority."

New Zealand's Foreign Minister Murray McCully.