3 Sep 2013

NZ in talks with China over Tongan plane

7:31 pm on 3 September 2013

The New Zealand foreign minister says he has been in talks with China about a new aircraft it gifted to Tonga after he raised concern about the aircraft's safety.

New Zealand has suspended eight million US dollars in tourism aid to Tonga amid safety concerns with the MA-60, and has issued a travel advisory for New Zealanders using it.

Last month, the Chinese embassy in Wellington said New Zealand had acted improperly by making negative comments about the aircraft, which has had a negative impact on China's aviation reputation.

Murray McCully says he has raised the issue with China.

"I've discussed this directly with the authorities in China and obviously they have been interested in seeing these developments. I'm quite comfortable that New Zealand's following a proper course here. We will just work this quietly through and make sure that when we do unlock the funding we have all of the understandings in place that the New Zealand public would expect with their money."

Murray McCully says he is seeking certification of the aircraft's safety from an internationally respected and independent certifier before tourism funding is restored.

An International Civil Aviation Organisation spokesperson says Tonga has certified the MA-60 under the Convention on International Civil Aviation.