More funding for Pacific nations - Winston Peters

  • 04/03/2018

As the Government signals a new intensity towards its dealings with the Pacific, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is set to make her first trip across the region.

Fresh from a diplomatic trip across the Tasman, Ms Ardern will lead a delegation on her first annual Pacific Mission, departing for Samoa on Sunday.

She and a team of politicians, representatives from charities and Pasifika community leaders will then travel to Tonga, Niue and the Cook Islands during the week, engaging in diplomacy and taking in the local hospitality.

The visit also comes as New Zealand vows to renew its attention towards the Pacific.

Foreign Minister Winston Peters this week signalled what he called a "reset" for New Zealand's policies in the region - with boosted aid funding on the cards.

He told an audience in Sydney there was anxiety over the increasingly "congested strategic space" and that New Zealand had to change its strategy in the region to remain relevant.

Alluding to China's foreign aid expansion, he said there were other countries with deeper pockets and that some Pacific leaders were attracted to easy money.

"This reflects a new generation of post-colonial Pacific leaders who are increasingly confident, independent and assertive regionally and internationally," he said.

"They are more comfortable in courting a range of external partners."

Ms Ardern on Friday told reporters there was a whole range of issues facing the Pacific - including climate change, resource use and globalisation.

New Zealand and Australia's role was to "amplify the voice of our Pacific neighbours and do so in partnership with them", she said.

This year's Pacific Mission will also take particular note of the recovery of Tonga and Samoa after Cyclone Gita in February.

'Sense of urgency'

Council for International Development chair Josie Pagani said the new Government's approach will be music to the ears of Pacific governments.

"This is a big gesture from the Government that the Pacific, in terms of aid and development, is going to be a primary focus. I think that's really positive."

Ms Pagani says it'll lead to greater independence for the Pacific.

"What you're hearing from this Government is a sense of urgency that we've got to assist people in the Pacific to be more resilient to things like climate change. We've got to support their independence."

NZN / Newshub.