11 Jun 2016

Key's Fiji visit a 'disaster': Labour

6:09 pm on 11 June 2016

Prime Minister John Key's attempt to rebuild New Zealand's relationship with Fiji has backfired on him, the Labour Party says.

The traditional gift exchange between the two prime ministers.

The traditional gift exchange between the two prime ministers. Photo: RNZ / Benedict Collins

Mr Key described his official visit to Fiji this week as a success, despite publicly disagreeing with the country's leader on several issues.

At a state banquet, Fiji's Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama criticised the New Zealand media and defended his banning of some journalists from Fiji, claiming they dispensed with facts.

John Key asked Mr Bainimarama to reconsider the ban during the visit, and said they would have to agree to disagree.

But he said overall the trip was a success.

"The aim of this visit was really to reset the relationship, put the last sort of, I suppose eight years of the military coup behind us, really to say, look we now have a new foundation stone, we want to take the relationship from strength to strength."

Media await leaders at the opening of the Pacific Islands Forum

Media await leaders at the opening of the Pacific Islands Forum Photo: Koro Vaka'uta / RNZ

However, Labour foreign affairs spokesperson, David Shearer, said the trip was a disaster.

"It backfired completely," he said.

"Frank Bainimarama used the opportunity of Key being there used the opportunity to lecture New Zealand on the way it treated Fiji.

"He didn't step back from the restrictions on media [or] the heavy-handedness within parliament.

Mr Shearer said the government needed to keep pushing Fijian officials for a better democracy.

Mr Key said he also made it clear to Mr Bainimarama that New Zealand would not leave the Pacific Islands Forum, which Mr Bainimarama had previously sought.

John Key and Frank Bainimarama.

John Key and Frank Bainimarama. Photo: RNZ / Benedict Collins