A visit by Government ministers to Kaikoura has been cancelled after a temporary ban on Air Force helicopters flying over water.

EQC Minister Gerry Brownlee and Health Minister Jonathan Coleman were due to fly from Wellington to Kaikoura tomorrow, along with media.

That trip has now been cancelled - a decision which comes after one of the engines of an NH90 failed when flying over Cook Strait on Sunday, causing it to make an emergency landing.

In a statement, the Defence Force said the RNZAF "has been working hard to understand the technical issues involved".


"In light of what has been learned in recent days and the facts yet to be determined, the RNZAF has decided in the interest of safety to limit NH90 flying operations. The limitation on NH90 operations will prevent flights where an immediate landing will not be possible in the case of an engine-related emergency. For example, over built-up areas, mountainous terrain or over water.

"The RNZAF continues to work with the NH90 engine manufacturer to resolve the issue and will resume full NH90 flying operations as soon as possible."

The fleet of eight NH90s were ordered by the previous Labour government for $771 million in 2006.

In 2015 the NZD was unable to take any of its NH90 helicopters to the Pacific Islands after Cyclone Pam because they were considered too difficult to transport and were not yet cleared for "island-hopping".

The Navy's Seasprite helicopter was sent instead because it could be more easily transported. The Defence Force was also concerned about how the NH90s would cope with "wind-wash" in the islands.

At the time Brownlee said: "I wouldn't call the NH90s a white elephant [but] I think they're a challenging piece of kit. And we've got to be very careful that we don't end up buying more unsuitable equipment."

Last October then prime minister John Key was forced to cancel the first day of his trip to India after the Air Force Boeing 757 transporting him and 80 other passengers broke down in Townsville. A second plane was sent from New Zealand to pick up the delegation.

Nato Helicopter NH90
Cost: $771 million for 8 + support
Max speed: 300km/h
Capacity: 3 crew + 19 passengers