KEY HERE next month?
Leader’s visit will be the first by a New Zealand prime minister since 2006
New Zealand Prime Minister John Key is expected to make an official to Fiji next month. Mr Key will be in the country for a two-day visit -- on June 9-10, an informed Government source said. A planning committee is understood to be working on the visit. Mr Key is due to meet Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama.
This will be a significant step forward in the relations between the countries. No NZ prime minister has made an official visit to Fiji since 2006.
Mr Key’s visit will be a follow-up to his Foreign Minister Murray McCully who visited Fiji in February in the wake of Tropical Cyclone Winston. In NZ, Mr Key had signalled more aid may be in the pipeline for Fiji after pledging NZ $3.2million (F$4.58m) including defence force assets and personnel.
Diplomatic relations between New Zealand and Fiji soured after the 2006 takeover. Australia and NZ deserted Fiji and were instrumental in Fiji being suspended from Pacific Islands Forum.
But the relations were restored after Mr Bainimarama’s FijiFirst party won the 2014 general election.
However, the situation was complicated when Mr Bainimarama did not attend the Pacific Islands Forum meeting in Port Moresby early September last year. Mr Bainimarama objected to Australia and New Zealand’s “undue influence” and said he would not attend the Pacific Islands Forum until the two countries became development partners rather than full members. He said he believed Pacific Islands Forum no longer served the best interests of Pacific islands. A few weeks later, on September 30, Mr Key and Mr Bainimarama posed together for a photo in New York. After a quick chat about rugby, the two leaders withdrew to a private room to continue their meeting. Their talks focused on Fiji’s role in the Pacific and a likelihood of a top-level visit by Mr Key. Next month’s visit would be the icing on the cake for the restored relations.
Prime Minister John Key.