NZ won't quit UN, even if it is a 'bit of a talkfest' - English

In perhaps the least controversial promise of the election campaign, Bill English has ruled out a referendum on pulling New Zealand out of the United Nations should he remain Prime Minister following the election.

There are presently 193 countries in the global body, formed in 1945 after World War II to prevent another global conflict. New Zealand was a founding member, having signalled its intention to join as early as 1942.

Former Foreign Minister Murray McCully at the United Nations, representing New Zealand.
Former Foreign Minister Murray McCully at the United Nations, representing New Zealand. Photo credit: Getty

Mr English was taking calls from the public on RadioLIVE on Friday morning when the leftfield question came.

"I was just wondering how much money are we paying the UN every year, and if we get to have a referendum if we want to be a partner of this globalist structure," asked a woman named Mel.

"From my perspective, it's not good for our country [inaudible] that are standing up for sovereignty."

Mr English said he wasn't sure how much it costs for New Zealand to be a member of the UN.

"But we're a member because it's our way of playing a part in the global system. We work with them to protect Kiwis everywhere because Kiwis are all over the world. They help us with refugees, they help us with aid projects, and so on.

"Right now, one of the big issues is North Korea - the UN is one way of getting some pressure to try and get that calmed down."

Asked by host Mark Sainsbury if the UN could often be a waste of time, Mr English defended the institution.

"It does have that aspect to it, but if people aren't talking to each other, they're fighting each other. So a bit of a talkfest goes on there, but it has a much broader positive purpose."

According to documents on the UN's website, New Zealand pays around $9.4 million a year towards the general UN budget. But this doesn't include the costs of UN activities, like peacekeeping - which can cost twice that, if not more.

The US, as the world's largest economy, shoulders about 22 percent of the overall cost.