22 Feb 2009

NZ High Commissioner at bushfire service in Melbourne

1:29 pm on 22 February 2009

New Zealand's High Commissioner to Australia is attending a memorial service for Australian bush fire victims in Melbourne on Sunday.

High Commissioner John Larkindale is among the 50,000 people at the Rod Laver Arena, along with a representative of the New Zealand Fire Service.

New Zealand's consul general in Melbourne is also attending.

The service began at 11am (AEDT) and is being broadcast nationally on radio and televison. It will end with a minute's silence.

Sunday is a national day of mourning in Australia.

Prime Minister John Key says it was decided he would not attend in order to put less pressure on the Australian system.

Mr Key will express his condolences personally to Kevin Rudd when he goes to Australia in a week for talks with the Australian prime minister.

Condolence book

The Australian flag is at half mast at the Australian High Commission in Wellington on Sunday.

A condolence book remains open there.

Memorial services were held at churches in Auckland and Christchurch on Wednesday.

Meanwhile, New Zealand firefighters continue working with Australian crews to deal with the remaining fires.

Four are still burning across Victoria. Conditions are expected to worsen on Monday.

At least 209 people are known to have died in the fires on 7 February: mostly in towns and villages northeast of Melbourne.