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Embassies and consular services for Tonga

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Consulate of the Kingdom of Tonga
New Zealand High Commission Tonga

Our relationship with Tonga

Sea view in Tonga.

New Zealand and Tonga share a close relationship founded on historical ties, geographical proximity, shared values, and an ever-expanding people to people connection (whanaungatanga/nofo ‘a kainga). Formal bilateral relations were established with Tonga in 1970.

Tonga is the only Pacific country with a constitutional monarchy – it is known officially as the Kingdom of Tonga.  In 2010, Tonga made an historic and fundamental change from an executive monarchy to a modern parliamentary democracy, holding its first fully democratic elections in November that year.

In 2019, New Zealand and Tonga signed a Statement of Partnership that recognised a relationship founded on sovereign equality and governed by a spirit of close friendship. The statement reaffirmed a mutual commitment to democracy, human rights, gender equality, effective governance, the rule of law, environmental stewardship, and strong regional and international cooperation. Partnership, climate change, stability and security, people and prosperity were identified as priority areas for joint cooperation. 

Development cooperation and sustainability

New Zealand is a trusted development partner to Tonga, delivering development activities that support agreed priority areas including, improving governance and public service performance, communications infrastructure resilience, financial and economic reform-linked budget support, health workforce development, technical and vocational skills, climate resilience, and disaster response & resilience.

Tonga is one of the most natural disaster-prone countries in the world and climate change remains a significant priority for the Government of Tonga. We have worked as a collaborative partner to help respond to, and mitigate, some of these climate change challenges.

We continue to support Tonga through regional governance activities that include strengthening parliamentary oversight, improving legislative drafting capability, lifting audit standards, ombudsman assistance, and improving access to justice.

The New Zealand High Commission Fund – Kingdom of Tonga supports small scale, short-term community projects that contribute to wider community development and well-being.

The Manaaki New Zealand Scholarships Programme(external link) provides tertiary and short-term training scholarships to Tongan scholars.

The latest information on our development cooperation activities, including activity details and descriptions, start and end dates, geographic and sectoral focus, expenditure figures, is available at DevData(external link).

Defence and security

New Zealand’s defence relationship with Tonga constitutes one of the longest-standing pillars of our relationship. It is anchored in strong historical ties, with members of the Tongan Armed Forces serving in our Māori and regular battalions in both World Wars. Until the 1970s, an NZDF officer filled the role of Commander of the Tongan Defence Forces.

Defence engagement includes annual bilateral talks, training for His Majesty’s Armed Forces (HMAF), Maritime Surveillance, Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief, Search and Rescue, and a wide array of defence exercises. A defence attaché is based in Tonga.

We also have close security ties with Tonga, through our police and defence relationships. 

Trade and investment

Flags of Tonga and New Zealand.

New Zealand is Tonga's main source of imports and Tonga has a small export economy of fish and agricultural products.  Programmes such as the Pacific Horticultural and Agricultural Market Access Programme (PHAMA Plus), the Tonga Vanilla Programme, and The Tonga demersal line fishery activity help to develop productivity and expertise in growers and exporters as well as diversifying exporting opportunities.

New Zealand and Tonga have strong economic ties with many Tongans participating in the Recognised Seasonal Employer (RSE) scheme(external link). This creates mutual benefit for New Zealand's horticulture sector and for Tongan families and communities. Remittances from the Tongan community in New Zealand are vital contributors to the resilience of Tonga’s economy.

Both New Zealand and Tonga have ratified the Pacific Agreement on Closer Economic Relations (PACER Plus)  which entered into force on 13 December 2020.

For more information on the latest New Zealand International Trade with Tonga see the New Zealand Trade Dashboard(external link)

People and culture

Shared values, close people-to-people ties, and cultural and sporting links underpin our warm relationship with Tonga. Many Tongans call New Zealand home, as well as New Zealanders of Tongan descent, and Tongans with connections to New Zealand. Tongan New Zealanders contribute to both countries across all facets of society, including the arts, sports, business, politics, the media and academia.

Education serves as an important pillar of our relationship. Pathways to New Zealand residency exist through education, employment, and under the Pacific Access Category visa(external link), where a number of Tongan citizens are granted New Zealand residency each year.

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