China's rise in South Pacific means New Zealand faces more complex strategic environment - Ministry of Defence

New Zealand is being issued a stark warning - our strategic environment is deteriorating and is becoming the most challenging it's been in decades.

The Ministry of Defence has released its report on the global landscape and highlights strategic competition as a key threat, which it says is driven by China.

Nuclear powered submarines, fighter jets, and warships are all expected to impact more on our corner of the world.

"The trajectory is negative, there's nothing that we see in the environment at the moment that we see that's going to get any more positive," says Secretary of Defence Andrew Bridgman.

The Ministry of Defence's latest assessment warns we face a substantially more complex strategic environment.

"In particular, they're focused on the impact of China's rise on the South Pacific," says professor of strategic studies at Victoria University Robert Ayson.

And the Pacific is being highlighted as where New Zealand must concentrate its defence efforts.

"We need to play a very active and deliberate role there to make sure we're competitive there but also supportive of the aspirations of each of those countries," says Defence Minister Peeni Henare.

To combat the dynamic landscape, the report says our defence policy approach needs to shift from risk management to being deliberate and proactive.

"What they're really saying is that we need to think more about threats to New Zealand and our interests, not managing a range of probabilities," Ayson says.

The Government announced a new set of defence priorities and principles alongside the assessment, ensuring people are safe and well-trained, there's better infrastructure, and there's assistance for Pacific partners to address security challenges.

Challenges that could pose a threat to our sovereignty and national security.