Nicholas Jones is a New Zealand Herald political reporter.

Fiji PM Frank Bainimarama official visit confirmed

Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama. Herald on Sunday photograph by Michael Craig.
Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama. Herald on Sunday photograph by Michael Craig.

Fiji's Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama will arrive in New Zealand for an official visit on Wednesday - and join his counterpart John Key at the weekend's Bledisloe Cup test.

Key confirmed the visit today - Bainimarama's first as Fiji's Prime Minister.

"New Zealand and Fiji have strong ties in a range of areas, and the Prime Minister's visit presents a further opportunity to discuss issues of mutual interest," Key said.

Bainimarama will be formally welcomed at Government House in Auckland on Saturday, followed by bilateral talks.

He will participate in a wreath laying ceremony at the Auckland War Memorial Museum and, along with Key, attend the Bledisloe Cup match at Eden Park on Saturday night, before departing on Sunday.

The Fijian leader delivered a tongue-lashing to Prime Minister John Key when Key visited Fiji in June - his first visit since the coup in 2006.

Despite that, Key invited Bainimarama for an official visit in return.

Bainimarama has repeatedly criticised Key and New Zealand, but earlier this month Key said despite appearances, the relationship was on the improve.

He said he believed Bainimarama knew he needed a good relationship with New Zealand, something highlighted by the response to Cyclone Winston.

Labour leader Andrew Little has said there was ongoing concern about actions in Fiji, such as the arrest of Opposition MPs taking part in a public forum about the Constitution.

He did not believe Bainimarama's treatment of Key on his visit was appropriate for a head of government. However, it was important to continue with the "thaw" in relations and he had no objection to Bainimarama visiting and would meet with him if invited.

In a speech at a banquet in Key's honour in Suva in June, Bainimarama had hit out at the sanctions New Zealand put in place during the years of the coup.

He was also angered by more recent criticism of the Fijian government over the arrests of the Opposition MPs who were arrested for attending a public meeting without a permit.

Fiji's Public Order Act requires a permit for any public meetings.

After that Bainimarama told Fijian media Key was being disrespectful of himself and Fiji by using words such as "mouthing off" and "silly" to describe the situation.

In September, Bainimarama also renewed his criticism of New Zealand and Australia and boycotted the Pacific Islands Forum leaders' meeting, saying he would not return until the two countries were locked out of the Forum.

In the same month, Fiji withdrew from the Pacer Plus Pacific-wide trade agreement negotiations, forcing Trade Minister Todd McClay to abandon his visit to Fiji at the last minute.

- NZ Herald

Get the news delivered straight to your inbox

Receive the day’s news, sport and entertainment in our daily email newsletter

SIGN UP NOW

© Copyright 2016, NZME. Publishing Limited

Assembled by: (static) on production bpcf03 at 11 Dec 2016 20:50:25 Processing Time: 228ms