25 Mar 2012

Hundreds mourn Tongan king in Auckland

2:40 pm on 25 March 2012

Hundreds of people have attended a memorial held in South Auckland for the late Tongan King George Tupou V, before Tuesday's state funeral in Tonga.

The service was led by Reverend Frederick Feki at the Tongan Methodist Church at Mangere on Sunday.

Mangere MP, Su'a William Sio, spoke of the king as a great and wonderful monarch, saying his proudest legacy was to introduce democratic elections to the country.

Governor-General Lieutenant General Sir Jerry Mateparae will lead the New Zealand delegation to the late king's state funeral in Tonga on Tuesday.

Radio New Zealand's reporter says this will be the only chance most Tongans in this country will have to pay their respects.

The king, who was 63, died in Hong Kong on his way back from Europe last Monday, and his body was flown directly from Hong Kong to Nuku'alofa, instead of coming to Auckland to lie in state briefly at the royal residence there.

The Tongan Advisory Council's Melino Maka says some people will have difficulty travelling to the funeral from Australia and New Zealand because it was originally wrongly announced as being planned for Wednesday.

"This decision that was made, it is very disappointing," he said. "For whatever reason the government has decided; to move the day is very disruptive, and they have not considered Tongans overseas."