NZ releases more than $5 million of suspended tourist grant

The New Zealand government has released more than NZ$5 million of tourist funding for Tonga that had been suspended over concerns about Real Tonga airline's use of a controversial Chinese aircraft.

Several Chinese-built MA60s have been involved in accidents.

The aircraft is not licensed for use in New Zealand.

Tonga’s Minister of Tourism, Dr Viliami Latu, said the money came from the NZ$10.5 million grant that was withheld last year.

Dr Latu said the rest of the money would be released in stages.

The release of the money came after New Zealand supported a World Bank-led agreement for a review of land, marine and aviation transport safety in the Pacific Islands.

The New Zealand Government has pledged financial support to implement the recommendations of the review, expected to be completed later this year.

“The New Zealand Government accepts that the World Bank-led process will deliver a sound basis for implementing the tourism development package announced last year and we have agreed to progressively release funding, as appropriate, to support the review and the implementation of its recommendations,” Foreign Affairs Minister Murray McCully said.

Tonga’s Prime Minister, Lord Tu’ivakano and Dr Latu met Mr McCully on March 5.

Dr Latu reported to the Tongan Parliament early this month that he and the Prime Minister had told Mr McCully there were other aircrafts in Tonga for New Zealanders who did not want to fly on the MA60.

The Minister told the House they signed an agreement with New Zealand for the development of scenic reserves in Tonga and New Zealand had released part of the suspended funds to fund that project.

The suspension of New Zealand funding and a travel advisory to New Zealand tourists about flying on the MA60 have badly affected kingdom’s tourism industry.  

Travel advisory

Vava’u 14 MP Lisiate ‘Akolo asked Dr Latu in Parliament whether New Zealand would lift  its travel advisory.

Dr Latu said Tonga had to meet certain requirements within a particular time before the travel advisory was lifted.   

He told the House the Real Tonga airline had leased a Chinese-built Harbin Y12 aircraft from Vanuatu and there was also a Queen Air to help with domestic services. The number of domestic passengers fell after the New Zealand warning.

The Tourism minister told the House the Y12 and Queen Air had been certified by New Zealand.

The main points

  • New Zealand has released more than NZ$5 million of tourist funding for Tonga that had been suspended over concerns about Real Tonga airline’s use of a controversial Chinese aircraft.
  • Several Chinese-built MA60s have been involved in accidents.
  • Tonga’s Minister of Tourism, Dr Viliami Latu, said the money came from the NZ$10.5 million grant that was withheld last year.
  • Tonga’s tourism industry has been badly affected by the suspension of funding.
  • The New Zealand government’s travel advisory about the MA60 has not been withdrawn.

For more information

‘NZ funding to Tonga cut over Chinese plane’

‘Tongan tourism struggling under weight of NZ withholding funding’

Real Tonga uses leased Queen Air

Real Tonga Harbin Y12


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