22 Aug 2008

Plans in place to evacuate New Zealanders in Fiji

5:11 pm on 22 August 2008

The Government has revealed it has contingency plans in place to evacuate New Zealand citizens from Fiji if the situation there deteriorates.

Defence Minister Phil Goff says he discussed Fiji with his Australian counterpart Joel Fitzgibbon at Parliament on Friday.

He says co-ordinated contingency plans have been in place since the coup in December 2006 by Commodore Frank Bainimarama.

Mr Goff says the Government does not expect to have to evacuate citizens but it would be remiss not to have plans in place.

"If there was voilence erupting, the first way in which we would try to evacuate our civilians is by the normal commercial airline route," he says.

"If, however, Nadi airport was closed we would then have to consider whether a military evacuation by air or by sea was necessary."

However, Mr Goff says the Government does not expect violence to break out in the country, but it would attempt to work with the Fiji government if it had to, to evacuate New Zealand citizens.

He says neither New Zealand nor Australia see a military solution for Fiji - which the Pacific Islands Forum has threatened to suspend if it does not hold elections by March next year.

Prime Minister Helen Clark says the initial response by Fiji to a Pacific Islands Forum communiqué, that may result in suspension, is insulting.

Fiji's interim Foreign Minister Ratu Epeli Nailatikau has reportedly said "Fiji is angry", and that the forum has been misused by New Zealand and Australia.

Miss Clark says it's just plain insulting to say that the two regional powers have manipulated the forum, which is holding its annual summit in Niue.

Meanwhile, the European Union is restating its view that Fiji will miss out on restructuring help for its sugar industry if it does not move to democracy.

The EU is giving Fiji $125 million for restructuring.

2006 coup

Commodore Bainimarama seized power in December 2006. It was the fourth coup there since 1987.

He gave a commitment at last year's Pacific Islands Forum in Tonga to hold elections by March 2009, but now says Fiji is being pressured to return to democratic rule too quickly.