20 Mar 2012

Call for Tongan king to lie in state in Auckland

3:45 pm on 20 March 2012

New Zealand's Tongan community is calling for King George Tupou V's body to lie in state in Auckland as his casket passes through on the way back to Tonga.

The 63-year-old died in Hong Kong on Sunday with his brother and successor Tupouto'a Lavaka at his bedside.

During his six-year reign, King George oversaw fundamental political change which brought democracy to the small Pacific kingdom.

The king had suffered from a range of illnesses and last year had a cancerous tumour removed.

The chairperson of the Tongan Advisory Council in New Zealand, Melino Maka, says many Tongans want to pay their respects before the king's body is returned home.

Mr Maka says the plane the king will be on from Hong Kong is likely to stop in Auckland.

Officials in Tonga say a decision is still to be made on the route.