'Bainimarama’s coming' - PM lets slip

Fiji Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama
Fiji Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama

The Prime Minister has let slip that he'll be taking Fijian Prime Minister, Frank Bainimarama, to the next Bledisloe Test.

John Key made an official visit to Fiji back in June - the first time a New Zealand Prime Minister has visited since the 2006 Bainimarama-led coup. While Mr Bainimarama originally gained power through what he calls the "revolution", he was later democratically elected in 2014.

At the time Mr Key extended an invitation for Mr Bainimarama to visit - and it seems he's all but accepted it.

"He's highly likely to come, we're working our way through it and it's highly likely it'll coincide with the All Black match."

And the Fijian Prime Minister won't be flying solo at the game.

"Yeah, I'll be taking him, you know, on the basis that we go," Mr Key said.

During the Fiji visit the pair engaged in some "rugby diplomacy" both using their dinner speeches to banter about the sport and even gifting each other rugby themed gifts - Mr Key received a Fijian rugby jersey, while New Zealand gifted Mr Bainimarama a signed rugby ball.

And while rugby forms common ground, not all was forgiven when it came to the cold shoulder Fiji received from New Zealand following the coup.

In a speech during Mr Key's visit, Mr Bainimarama criticised New Zealand for opposing the 2006 coup and defended the way he originally took leadership of the country, saying before the coup Fiji was a much less democratic country.

"Prime Minister, history also records that New Zealand and other nations objected to the revolution because it was achieved by undemocratic means. Yet they ignored the indisputable fact that Fiji's instructions at the time were already inherently undemocratic," he said.

During Fiji's tumultuous political period, a number of New Zealand journalists were banned as Mr Bainimarama deemed their reporting "twisted concoctions", and he still believes media treat him unfairly.

"There appears to be a substantial body of opinion in New Zealand, led by your generally hostile media that what has happened in Fiji somehow lacks legitimacy. That somehow, I lack legitimacy, and my government lacks legitimacy.

But Mr Key doesn't regret going - saying it's helping to rebuild the relationship.

"Well that [was] the aim of putting our best foot forward and going to Fiji and sort of trying to be the bigger person in the relationship," he said.  "I take it all with a bit of a grain of salt the fact that he made the speech that he made, outside that things were quite friendly."

Mr Key wasn't sure whether Mr Bainimarama's trip to New Zealand would be an official state visit.

"I think that would be right, I just need to check that."

Figures released to Newshub under the Official Information Act show the last two state visits by Pacific leaders have cost the New Zealand taxpayer tens of thousands of dollars.

Vanuatu Prime Minister Charlot Salwai's visit in August cost $44,800, while the Tongan Prime Minister's visit in July cost $59,164.

New Zealand has given Fiji more than $10 million in aid following the devastating Cyclone Winston in February.

"I think he knows he needs a good relationship with New Zealand."

The All Blacks play Australia in the final Bledisloe match for the year on October 22.