Foreign minister Murray McCully says a relaxation of travel bans against Fiji would be required soon if its government gives a firm commitment to elections in 2014.

Mr McCully also remained hopeful that the Rugby World Cup would act as a carrot for the Fijian interim government to give a cast-iron assurance in return for lifting the travel ban in time for the Cup.

Fiji was suspended from the Pacific Islands Forum in May 2009 after Commodore Frank Bainimarama refused to agree to hold elections by the end of 2009. He later said elections would not be held until 2014 to allow time for electoral reforms.

Mr McCully said Fiji was yet to deliver any hard evidence of progress to elections in 2014, but it was now "closer than it was before".

It is an indication that Mr McCully could settle for elections in that year provided Fiji sticks to its promise.

Fiji needed to give "a pretty clear indication that they are headed for the polls within an acceptable timeframe".

If that happened, the travel ban could be relaxed to allow it to appoint the people required for an election.

The Fijian administration struggled to recruit for senior positions because the ban automatically applied to those people.

"There's a point where it's going to be in our interests for them to be able to recruit heads of government departments that are not members of the military; that means at that point you have to look at the sanctions."

Mr McCully's views on softening sanctions to help Fiji appear at odds with the harder line taken by Australia.

In an interview with the Herald during his visit to New Zealand for talks with Mr McCully last week, Australia Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd said the only person who needed to change their approach in the matter was Commodore Bainimarama.

Asked if a more incentive-based approach was needed, Mr Rudd rejected it.

He said issues such as sacking the judiciary, suppressing the media, taking political prisoners and refusing to hold elections since December 2006 showed it was "not a normal coup".

Mr McCully denied he was advocating a different approach to Australia but said he had more interaction with Fiji than Australia.

He denied it was a softening of the stance on the sanctions or an early election date, saying it was always envisaged that the sanctions would be reviewed if Fiji made a commitment and needed help with organisation such as conducting a census, redrawing boundaries and running enrolment programmes.

Any loosening of the travel bans could depend on a visit to Fiji by the Ministerial Contact Group - a group of ministers from Pacific Island Forum countries charged with advising on progress in Fiji.

Fiji had invited the group to visit but no date had been set.

Fiji would still have to agree to a process towards elections and a timetable which met with approval from international forums such as the Pacific Islands Forum and the Commonwealth.

He was hopeful the World Cup would act as an incentive>

"The NZ Government has never really wanted to exclude Fijian people coming to New Zealand for the Rugby World Cup, but the sad fact is members of their administration and military are on the banned list.

"Unless something happens to allow changes to occur on the sanctions front, then those people aren't going to be able to come."