New Zealand said tourism aid to Tonga will remain suspended until safety concerns about a Chinese-made aircraft gifted to the tiny South Pacific nation are resolved.

A planned tourism support program worth $8 million (NZ$10.5 million) over three years was put on hold earlier this year after the New Zealand-run Chathams Pacific airline announced it was pulling out of Tonga, Foreign Affairs Minister Murray McCully said in a statement. It will remain on hold until safety concerns about a Xian MA60 aircraft gifted to Tonga by China are resolved, he said.

“Significant safety issues have been raised regarding the plans of the new air service operator,” McCully said. “Our tourism support will remain on hold until safety issues are resolved to the satisfaction of respected international aviation experts.”

Editor: Tracy Withers

To contact the reporter on this story: Matthew Brockett in Wellington at To contact the editor responsible for this story: Matthew Brockett at

Tags: australia