Claire Trevett is the New Zealand Herald’s deputy political editor.

School performance ends John Key's Fiji visit

Prime Minister John Key in Fiji with Fijian Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama. Photo / Facebook
Prime Minister John Key in Fiji with Fijian Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama. Photo / Facebook

Prime Minister John Key has ended his visit to Fiji on a warm note, visiting a Fijian school rebuilt by New Zealand troops after Cyclone Winston.

However, he has risked sparking a diplomatic incident with Tonga, after winning over the children at the school by saying he hoped Fiji would beat Tonga by a significant margin in a big rugby game in Suva the next day.

Naiyala School, about 90 minutes out of Suva, lost many of the roofs from its classrooms in the cyclone and NZ Defence Force troops helped rebuild it.

Hundreds of school children, as well as adults from the surrounding villages, came to see Mr Key and the children even wrote a dance and song to perform in his honour.

Mr Key got some laughs from the children when he said he was the 38th Prime Minister of NZ "and I think I must be the first one to come to Naiyala School". The children applauded when he said he was the first NZ Prime Minister to visit in a decade, although he diplomatically left out mentioning the reason why.

He was given a sevusevu (traditional welcome) and given a woven cloak before the children performed for him.

The Defence Force troops were part of a 400-strong deployment to Fiji after Cyclone Winston - one of the largest single deployments since World War II. Nor was New Zealand the only donor in the area - the temperamental weather saw the ceremonial stage draped in a tarpaulin marked "Australian Aid".

Education Minister Mahendra Reddy welcomed the Prime Minister and thanked New Zealand for its contribution. He said the Prime Minister's visit was a significant moment for the country.

"This significant moment will leave everlasting memories which all Fijians will remember."

It was the final engagement on Mr Key's trip to Fiji and afterward he said he believed it had been a success.

"The aim was to really reset the relationship, put the last 8 years behind us." He said that did not mean either Fiji or New Zealand has resiled from its position on the coup.

He said he would have liked to have stayed longer - even if just to watch the Fiji-Tonga game.

- NZ Herald

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