11 Aug 2013

Govt issues Tongan plane warning

9:04 am on 11 August 2013

The Government has withdrawn its support from the Tongan tourism industry and is warning travellers about the risk of flying on airline Real Tonga's MA60 aircraft.

Foreign Affairs Minister Murray McCully says the MA60 has been the subject of serious concerns amongst aviation experts and is not certified to fly in New Zealand.

Tonga was gifted the Chinese-made Xian MA60 for its domestic airline by China last month.

Mr McCully says the MA60 has one of the world's worst safety records and New Zealand will not be spending taxpayer's money promoting tourism in Tonga until the Government is satisfied with the safety and reliability of the new air service.

He says he is in discussions with the Tongan Government about the issue.

Massey University's Director of Pasifika, Malakai Koloamatangi, says it is an extreme move and it would be better if the New Zealand and Tongan Governments sat down to resolve the issue.