New Zealand’s Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters says the country’s reputation could be tainted by the national flag carrier’s refusal to fly into Vanuatu’s Bauerfield airport.

Air New Zealand pulled flights out of Port Vila in January 2016 citing concerns over the state of the runway.

Photo by Air New Zealand

Photo by Air New Zealand                                                                                                                                                     

Richard Butler | RNZ | Jun 8th, 2019

However there have been various repairs since then and airlines such as Virgin Australia have resumed services.

During a visit to Port Vila Mr Peters said he was aware of the important part tourism played in the local economy.

The minister said the visiting delegation is returning home fully apprised of the situation and they will be making their thoughts well known to Air New Zealand.

“Our nation’s reputation is on the line here in a way and the original excuse, if it was to have an validity, has gone. It still means we have got to have a talk to them, so to speak, in the interests of the Vanuatu people,” Winston Peters said.

Winston Peters said while ministers can’t interfere with the management of the airline they can still make comments on issues.

Work on the runway at Bauerfield Airport

Work on the runway at Bauerfield Airport

A World Bank project to upgrade asphalt at Bauerfield is due for completion this month.

Vanuatu Airport authorities say even with safety concerns eased a shortage of aircraft could continue to hamper a reintroduction of services to Port Vila.