11 Jul 2013

Tongan deputy PM says plane issue is about NZ's McCully

4:38 am on 11 July 2013

Tonga's deputy prime minister says Tonga will not buckle under pressure from New Zealand to stop using a controversial new plane.

The New Zealand foreign minister Murray McCully has suspended tourism aid to Tonga over the MA60, which was gifted by China and has been involved in recent incidents.

Samiu Vaipulu says human error caused last year's crash in Indonesia that killed 25 people and prompted it to be banned from three Indonesian airports because of difficult landing strips.

Mr Vaipulu says last week the King of Tonga caught the plane with the High Commissioner of New Zealand, and it has been flown by US pilots.

He says Mr McCully should provide a plane if he is so concerned.

"The most simple thing is or Mr McCully to contact the government of China and ask them if it is a faulty airplane. Why would they give it as a gift to Tonga? We have built our billboards, we have started our TV programmes in New Zealand - we're not stopping."

Samiu Vaipulu says tourists will not be turned off, and flights for the next three months are filling up.