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NZ, Fiji looking forward: PMs

NZ NewswireNZ Newswire 22/10/2016
New Zealand Prime Minister John Key © Fiona Goodall/Getty Images for The Department of Internal Affairs New Zealand Prime Minister John Key

Both New Zealand's and Fiji's prime ministers say looking forward, rather than reflecting on the past, is key as they reconstruct the relationship between the two countries.

Fijian Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama was on Saturday welcomed to Government House in Auckland for his first official New Zealand visit since he took power in a coup in 2006.

Mr Bainimarama was greeted with a powhiri and a military inspection before he sat down with Prime Minister John Key for talks.

Mr Key said the topics discussed included development and aid, the PACER Plus pregional free trade agreement, defence links and regional sport.

He said the visits reflected an improving relationship since Fiji's 2014 election.

Mr Bainimarama told reporters he had come looking for much stronger engagement with New Zealand.

"I am very pleased the prime minister has worked with me to take our relationship to another level; a relationship in which we let bygones be bygones," he said.

Although he was not expected to answer questions, Mr Bainimarama fielded a few, rebuking the first journalist who asked about changes to Fiji's electoral system as not having done their homework.

Asked why he had lifted a ban three journalists from New Zealand and Australia entering Fiji last week, Mr Bainimarama said it was part of the diplomatic process.

"We want to expand on the relationship," he said.

He said criticism from Fiji's director of public Pprosecutions over the recent temporary arrests of five prominent opposition figures in Fiji showed the country's institutions were independent.

Afterwards, Mr Key told media while the end of the travel ban was a good sign, humans rights in Fiji were still an area where discussion and engagement was needed.

"I have always said the restoration of democracy in Fiji was a good and important step, but it does evolve over time," he said.

Like Mr Bainimarama, Mr Key was keen to not dwell on the past.

"If we can just continue to look forward now and not necessarily look back, that'll be good for both Fiji and New Zealand."

Mr Bainimarama is set to meet with opposition leader Andrew Little later on Saturday as well as laying a wreath at the Auckland War Memorial Museum.

He and Mr Key will also be attending the evening's Bledisloe Cup game.

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