The New Zealand Foreign Affairs Minister, Murray McCully, says the former 3FIR commander, Roko Ului Mara, will be allowed into the country and is expected to arrive this week.
McCully told Television New Zealand's Q&A programme during a live interview a short time ago, the decision was made last night to approve Mara's application for an exemption to visit for two days.
He says the New Zealand decision was a little bit different from the Australian one, where Mara has been taken off the travel ban completely.
McCully says because of Mara's history with the regime and the military, he will remain on the travel ban list but will be granted an exemption to make a visit.
He also said Mara's application was in line with many others the New Zealand government received: "We are in the business of considering exemptions on a fairly regular basis. Not just people who have got out of the military, or got out of the regime ... people who are coming through for humanitarian reasons or whatever, who happen to be on the list.
"So what we've tried to do is treat this in the same way as any other request. I have requests from ministers in the current regime to transit New Zealand because it's the on way they can to a regional meeting. We've tried to this properly and fairly."
Asked whether the decision was credible considering Mara's acknowledgement that he witnessed human rights abuses, McCully said that is why Mara has not been removed from the ban list.
"Which is a good reason for not giving him, immediately, pin up boy status overnight. So we've simply said 'let's take this carefully ... let's consider this on the same basis as any other request'. We got a request for an exemption last Thursday. We've turned it around. I spoke to the Immigration Minister who is my fellow decision maker on this matter last night and we've decided to grant the exemption".
Asked what New Zealand's motives were in granting Mara the exemption, McCully replied: "We'll, we're trying to do two things that are potentially in conflict. Yes, we are trying to encourage people to part company with the regime and to part company with the military and, uh, reward them when they do that.
"But we're also trying to de-escalate tension in the region at the moment. There are tensions there internally in Fiji, there are tensions between Fiji and Tonga. We actually need to play a careful hand here, we don't want to stoke fires that could potentially bring the region into conflict."
McCully agreed Mara had information New Zealand was interested in.
"Oh, we are. Look, the allegations that have been made are very serious and they come from someone who is highly credible in that sense. But we also need to hear the information in a proper environment that's not a politically charged environment with the news media involved in the proceedings. It's a situation where the officials can sit down and weigh this stuff up."
Referring to a letter from Nik Naidu of the Fiji Democracy Coalition to McCully this week, Q&A reminded the Minister of the concerns raised about Mara heading the largest division in the Fiji military, and the wide belief he was directly responsible for tortures, sexual assault a number of deaths in custody, asking why would he let him in?
"Well, as I said he's given you (interviewer Guyon Espiner) plenty of reasons why we shouldn't give him immediate poster boy status but clearly he has some information to impart. We've made the decision the appropriate thing is for New Zealand to receive that information and to allow him to meet with the groups that he wants to meet with for a couple of days and for us to make a careful assessment."
Editor's Note: Coming up, Nik Naidu talks to C4.5 about the Fiji Coalition's decision to oppose Mara's visit.