16 Sep 2013

NZ foreign minister remains sceptical about Tongan plane

3:02 pm on 16 September 2013

The New Zealand Foreign Minister Murray McCully says he expects to speak to Tongan authorities in New York this week about the plane that has been the centre of controversy between the two countries.

The Foreign Minister put 8 million US dollars of New Zealand tourism aid on hold after Tonga announced the China-made MA-60 would start flying domestically.

The CEO of Samoa Air, Chris Langton, has reportedly been asked to join a team visiting China to confirm the safety of the aircraft which was a gift from China.

Mr McCully remains cautious about an upcoming inspection of the plane.

"I think they would want to look carefully at any new outfit that was going to arrive on the scene to undertake that work. At the end of the day it's up to Tonga to come to the arrangements they want to in terms of certification and aviation safety."

New Zealand's Foreign Minister, Murray McCully.

The International Civil Aviation Organisation says individual countries have the power to certify a plane, but New Zealand was also within its rights to raise questions about the aircraft, which has been involved in several incidents in Indonesia.