10 Jul 2013

NZ says Tonga rejected aviation safety help

6:25 pm on 10 July 2013

The New Zealand foreign minister, Murray McCully, says Tonga has rejected an offer to help with safety issues over the kingdom's new plane gifted by China.

Tonga's airline Real Tonga last week took delivery of the MA60 aircraft, which is to provide domestic flights previously operated by New Zealand-owned Chathams Pacific.

The minister says the cessation of that service as well as safety concerns surrounding the Chinese plane prompted him to put millions of dollars in tourism promotion on hold.

Mr McCully says Tonga's deputy prime minister, Samiu Vaipulu, who is also the transport minister, has been pushing to get the Chinese plane.

"I've been offering to fund aviation safety expertise to go to Tonga if that would assist in dealing with the issue. That's not an offer they had been prepared to accept, so we really are in their hands."

Murray McCully the suspended tourism aid package is for more than eight million US dollars over three years