National | Aotearoa

Fiji PM gets a taste of Māori business

Fijian Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama has touched down in New Zealand for a five-day trip. Today he was in Auckland for a tour of Moana New Zealand fisheries. He is in New Zealand to gain insight into Māori business methods in the fisheries sector with the goal of developing Fiji's economy.

It's been a decade since he last visited NZ and in the wake of lifting bans on New Zealand media in Fiji, Prime Minister Bainimarama remained tight-lipped, refusing comments or statements to the media, politely ignoring questions and diverting his gaze before being taken on a tour of Moana New Zealand fisheries.

His favorite food is fish and with a strong focus on developing Fiji's economy. Today he got a taste of how New Zealand's largest iwi-led fishery does business.

Pacific Economic Ambassador Shane Jones says, "It's not often Māori get such high esteemed visitors like him coming to see how we do business. Secondly, who knows? There may be opportunities for some of our businesses to go there because he has opened that door for us.”

Prime Minister Bainimarama wants to build Māori business networks, foster relationships and create more seasonal work opportunities for his people.

“I support the RSC initiative. It brings around 9000 workers here from the islands. It's not like there is a huge influx like we sometimes see from other overseas countries. But when you get to the regions, it's only right that businesses prioritise employing young Māori workers first,” says Jones.

Tension surrounds the NZ-Fiji relationship following NZ's stance after the 2006 coup, which saw Fiji ousted from the Pacific Island Forum (PIF) until Bainimarama was democratically re-elected in 2014.

Bainimarama now refuses to attend the forum meetings, instead of developing the Pacific Island Development Forum (PIDF), which excludes NZ and Australia.

Despite New Zealand and Australia being excluded from the PIDF, it remains to be seen if Bainimarama would be open to a Māori representative sitting at the PIDF table.

On Saturday, Prime Minister Bainimarama will be formally welcomed at Government House in Auckland, where he will take part in a wreath laying ceremony and then will attend the Bledisloe Cup match with Prime Minister John Key before leaving New Zealand on Sunday.