Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern sets out on Tokelau voyage

One reason why Jacinda Ardern wasn't at the Ihumātao protest on Saturday is because she's on her way to Tokelau.

It has been 15 years since a Kiwi Prime Minister visited there, even though it's a dependent territory of New Zealand.

Ardern's very long voyage to the islands of Tokelau began with a stop in Samoa on Saturday afternoon. From there it's a 22-hour boat trip from Samoa across open water.

"I love the ocean. The ocean's movement does not love me. But that is a small price to pay. It is a really important visit to make," says Ardern.

She will be sleeping on the Navy vessel Otago for four nights - it's a ship that has seen some rough seas.

The islands are so remote that communication is patchy.

In 1985, then-Prime Minister David Lange's trip helped define a turning point in New Zealand history 

The US decided it was during Lange's visit that it should attempt to dock a guided missile destroyer in New Zealand.

"I had no contact with Wellington at all," Lange said.

It forced Labour to make a firm decision on nuclear weapons, and the ship was turned away.  

It would be 19 years before another New Zealand Prime Minister would visit the atolls, with Helen Clark's trip in 2004.

"I've been blown away by the friendliness of people and the warmth of feeling they have for New Zealand," Clark said.

Tokelau is a territory of New Zealand; it's voted twice to stay that way.

"I'm happy to have that conversation with the people of Tokelau. If they wish to change the nature of their relationship, that's really a matter for them," Ardern said.

So Tokelau is a willing dependant of New Zealand, but when she gets there the Prime Minister will double-check it wants to stay that way.