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The problem related to documentation from New Zealand's Civil Aviation Authority which was included as part of Air New Zealand's application to allow the particular plane to land in China, the report said. DPA added that that the aircraft returned to Auckland about five hours after taking off and did not have permission from the Chinese authorities to land. Saturday was the first time a plane from the route, which is being serviced by a Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner, had attempted to fly to Shanghai.

Air New Zealand hasn't responded to questions today but said yesterday the issue was specific to the aircraft used on yesterday's flight.

Under the previous conservative government, New Zealand had fostered much closer ties with China. Calls to the civil aviation administration were not answered.

When asked to comment on the issue by the news agency, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern denied that it was an indication of strained relations between China and her country, and was instead due to administrative issues. At no point did she mention Taiwan or its status as a country.

Ardern is left trotting out the line that this is a scheduling issue, and the only thing keeping her from an official visit is scheduling clashes.

New Zealand political journalist Richard Harman speculated on his website Politik that the rejection of flight NZ289 was China reacting to New Zealand's decision to ban Chinese telco Huawei from supplying 5G to New Zealand telco Spark.

When asked about the status of the Huawei 5G contract, she said that data and security were the most important considerations, emphasizing that "it's not about vendor, it's not about country".

A month later Stuff asked Air New Zealand whether it had received any order from the CAA of China in regards to how the airline referred to Taiwan.

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

'We know customers will be deeply disappointed and frustrated by this situation and we are very sorry for the disruption to their travel plans, ' a statement read.

In February 2018, the Chinese government had instructed airlines to review their website references, and remove any material that identified Taiwan, Macau and Hong Kong as independent regions - a demand that was reiterated to 44 global carriers in a letter.