Oops: Ardern admits admin error caused China flight U-turn

Elias Hubbard
February 12, 2019

The same flight, NZ289, was turned back on a flight to China on August 24 a year ago, although an airline spokeswoman said that was due to an engineering issue, not a permitting one.

Ms Ardern was asked if she would be seeking assurances from Chinese authorities that the turnaround of the plane wasn't politically motivated.

"[China] has obviously made it very clear that they don't expect to see New Zealand being deemed as a surrogate for American politics at any level", he said.

Asked again, she said she hasn't been "privy to every exchange".

However, Philip Burdon, a former National government trade minister and recently chairman of the Asia New Zealand Foundation told Mike Hosking China is clearly putting New Zealand on notice.

An Air New Zealand plane forced to turn around en route to Shanghai did so for diplomatic reasons, but not because of recent unease with New Zealand's relationship with China. "Is it part of the ongoing deterioration in relations between this NZ Govt & China?" he tweeted yesterday.

Ms Ardern said she still has an open invite from the Chinese Administration to visit President Xi Jinping - however, dates for that visit have not been finalised.

"We've not received any communication of this nature", an Air New Zealand spokeswoman said at the time.

This morning, Stuff reported the aircraft was turned around because some of its paperwork included a reference to Taiwan - China does not formally recognise Taiwan as a country. It turned around several hours into the flight.

That followed a defense policy statement in July, in which New Zealand said China's rising influence in the South Pacific could undermine regional stability, and alluded to tension in the disputed South China Sea, sparking complaint from China.

"They have admitted it, they owned up to it".

Burdon said New Zealand needs to be very careful to not take sides.

That's despite concern from the Opposition leader Simon Bridges, who believes there is much more to it.

He again used the Air NZ flight being turned around as an example of how the relationship was under pressure.

"We need to know what has happened here".

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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