Celebrating links with Tonga

By Audrey Young

Governor-General Sir Anand Satyanand (right) escorts King George Tupou V at Government House. Photo / Mark Mitchell
Governor-General Sir Anand Satyanand (right) escorts King George Tupou V at Government House. Photo / Mark Mitchell

King George Tupou V of Tonga was educated at King's College in Otahuhu, Prime Minister Lord Tu'ivakano at Wesley College in Paerata, and former Prime Minister Feleti Sevele at Canterbury University.

Governor-General Sir Anand Satyanand hosted a dinner in the King's honour at Government House in Wellington and acknowledged the links to illustrate the closeness between New Zealand and Tonga.

He thanked Tonga for its offer of police and defence assistance to New Zealand after the February earthquake and for the $650,000 raised by the Government and Red Cross.

Sir Anand also acknowledged Tonga's sporting prowess, with mention going to rugby great Jonah Lomu and gold medal shot putter Valerie Adams, former All Blacks Sione Lauaki and Sam Tuitupou - "the famed Tongan Torpedo" - as well as rugby league players Sione Louisi, Feleti Mateo and Ukuma Tai'ai, members of the Warriors team.

Prime Minister John Key and Foreign Minister Murray McCully held talks with the King before the state dinner.

The agenda is understood to have included Tonga's transition to democracy, its contribution to Afghanistan - 55 troops in Helmand province since October last year - and the nation's strained relationship with Fiji since giving asylum to the King's cousin Colonel Tevita Mara formerly of the Fijian military.

The King received a 21-gun salute during the formal welcome to Government House, and laid a wreath at the National War Memorial in Buckle St. It is his first state visit since becoming monarch in 2006.

Mr McCully will visit Tonga next week on a tour of Polynesian Pacific countries ahead of the 40th Pacific Island Forum in September, accompanied by Lomu.

- NZ Herald

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