12 May 2015

Academic calls on NZ/Aust to redefine Pacific roles

2:08 pm on 12 May 2015

A New Zealand academic says there is a need for his country and Australia to redefine their roles in the Pacific amid the ongoing standoff with Fiji's leader.

Fiji prime minister, Frank Bainimarama, says he will not take his seat at the Pacific Islands Forum leaders' summit because of the undue influence New Zealand and Australia wield.

Frank Bainimarama on the eve of his landslide victory in the 2014 elections, the first since his 2006 coup

Fiji Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama Photo: RNZI/Sally Round

He also criticised their lack of action on critical issues for the Pacific like climate change.

The director of Massey University's Pasifika Centre, Malakai Koloamatangi, says Mr Bainimarama's views have a lot of validity, though he could have handled it more diplomatically.

But he says the imbroglio gives New Zealand and Australia a chance to engage with Mr Bainimarama in a new way.

"Frame it in a way that sounds like and looks like you are redefining your relationship and your policy to the Pacific, rather than correcting the wrongs and so forth. So don't do that, do it in a positive light to say we are looking at re-engaging, redefining our roles in the Pacific and Fiji will help us to do that."