Claire Trevett

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

Big chief Key visits Samoa on first leg of Pacific tour

Trip with entourage of 40 will see tourism and development announcements.

Prime Minister John Key will visit Poutasi village tomorrow. Photo / Alan Gibson
Prime Minister John Key will visit Poutasi village tomorrow. Photo / Alan Gibson

Prime Minister John Key says he is expecting the campaign for the All Blacks to play in Samoa to be on the agenda in his meeting with Samoa's Prime Minister today, and said he was a fan of the idea himself.

Mr Key arrived in Samoa on the first left of his three-country Pacific Mission last night.

He will attend Independence Day ceremonies this morning before his meeting with Prime Minister Tuilaepa. It comes as attempts to get the All Blacks to commit to playing in Samoa increase in both Samoa and New Zealand, and Mr Key expected the Prime Minister to raise it.

"Prime Minister Tuilaepa is mad keen on rugby - amongst everything else, being Minister of Finance and Prime Minister these days, he is also I think the President of the Samoan Rugby Football Union. So I have no doubt he will raise the issue."

He said it would be good if the All Blacks could get there.

"It would be a nice thing, to reflect the closeness of the two countries and the large number of Samoan players who have played for New Zealand at some point. But it has to fit in with the schedule the All Blacks have and it has to be practical. It's still a matter of if it happens, rather than when."

He said he could not really intervene as it was up to the NZRFU to decide. "I suspect they'll be looking at it and saying in the history of our two countries it is odd that we never had the opportunity to play there on Samoan soil."

As well as meetings with the various countries' prime ministers, a range of development and tourism announcements are expected during his trip around the Pacific from Samoa to Tonga and then to Niue for a day trip before he returns to New Zealand on Thursday night.

Mr Key will visit Poutasi village tomorrow. He first went there on his mid-2009 trip and returned a few months later just days after it was wrecked by the tsunami in October 2009. It was on that visit he was made a high chief, or ali'i, of the village.

The focus in Tonga is expected to be on the rebuilding after Cyclone Ian.

With the exception of the Cook Islands, which is too close to elections for the PM to visit, they are the same countries he stopped at on his first Pacific mission in mid-2009.

Mr Key said it was mainly a goodwill visit, partly because he will not attend the annual Pacific Islands Forum in July.

Go here for the Herald's latest coverage of Pacific Island issues.

- NZ Herald

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