4 Nov 2013

Tongan tourism struggling under weight of NZ withholding funding

6:24 am on 4 November 2013

The owner of a resort in the Tongan island of Vava'u says the ongoing saga over a Chinese plane gifted to Tonga is hurting the tourism industry.

New Zealand's foreign minister Murray McCully is continuing to withhold tourism funding to Tonga until it can prove the proper accreditation of the MA-60, despite the aircraft being used in 20 other countries.

He has also maintained a travel advisory, despite the United States Federal Aviation Administration saying Tonga complies with international standards.

Shane Walker, the owner of Tonga Beach Resort, and a board member of the Tonga Tourism Authority, says two operators in Vava'u have already closed and left the country.

He says the two most recognised aviation authorities have accredited the plane, and both sides need to resolve the matter urgently.

"It's going to have a tragic effect on Vava'u as a destination. It is a real shame for the community in particular because they don't have a choice, that's where they live and they're reliant on tourism to make ends meet."

Shane Walker.