Suva: Fiji's military strongman Voreqe Bainimarama said on Monday he would lift emergency laws in place since a 2009 political crisis and begin discussions on a new constitution.

The draconian regulations, including including tight censorship on the news media and a ban on public meetings, were imposed after a Fiji court ruled that Bainimarama's 2006 coup was illegal.

During the crisis the constitution was repealed, the judiciary sacked and the police and military were given powers to detain people without charge.

But in his New Year message, Bainimarama said the emergency laws would be lifted on Saturday to pave the way for consultation on a new constitution.

"I will, over the next few weeks, announce the nationwide consultation process which will commence in February 2012," he said.

"To facilitate this consultation process the public emergency regulations will cease from January 7, 2012."

The move was immediately welcomed by New Zealand, one of the harshest critics of the Bainimarama-led military coup.

New Zealand Foreign Minister Murray McCully said Wellington has been calling for the lifting of the regulations as an important step towards the holding of free and fair elections in Fiji.

"We therefore welcome the announcement that the regulations are to be lifted and the announcement that public consultations will commence on a new constitution in February," McCully said.

"While there are a range of steps that will be required before free and fair elections can be held, these are important moves in the right direction.

(Agencies)