Our relationship with the Pacific
New Zealand is a Pacific country, linked by history, culture, politics, and demographics to the region. In many respects the Pacific is where New Zealand matters more, wields more influence, and can have more positive impact than any other region.
Over 30 New Zealand government agencies have some form of interest or engagement with Pacific Island countries, as do a number of Non-Governmental Organisations.
There are three primary prisms through which New Zealand views its Pacific engagement: identity, security and prosperity.
- Identity: New Zealand has a strong Pacific identity. New Zealand is part of the Pacific family. There is greater interconnectedness between New Zealand and the countries of Cook Islands, Niue, Samoa, Tokelau and Tonga, than any others in the world, with the possible exception of Australia.
- Security: New Zealand’s national security is directly affected by the Pacific’s stability. New Zealand and the Pacific share a number of trans-boundary security challenges, including gangs, criminal deportations, drug production and distribution, cyber and financial crime, and aviation and border security.
- Prosperity: Pacific Island countries with improved economic and social well-being create opportunities for themselves to improve their resilience and self-reliance. We seek to assist Pacific Island countries to achieve sustainable economic growth and improved public financial management, as the primary engines of lifting living standards and funding vital government services.
In February 2018, Foreign Minister Winston Peters announced a refreshed New Zealand approach to the Pacific Islands region. New Zealand’s Pacific Reset has two key drivers:
- The Pacific Islands region is challenged by a broad array of challenges it is not, in some cases, well equipped to tackle; and
- The Pacific has become an increasingly contested strategic space, under which New Zealand has to work harder to maintain our positive influence.
New Zealand’s engagement with the Pacific is characterised by five principles:
- Understanding: New Zealand will demonstrate a depth of understanding of the Pacific shaped by academic, community, civil society and private sector expertise that exists in NZ.
- Friendship: New Zealand will exhibit friendship, including honesty, empathy, trust and respect. This means staying in frequent touch at a political level and having frank and open conversations when necessary.
- Mutual benefit: New Zealand will strive to develop solutions of mutual benefit when formulating domestic and foreign policy - for example on pension portability, criminal deportations, climate change, labour mobility and health and education policy.
- Collective ambition: New Zealand will seek to achieve collective ambition with Pacific partners and external actors, so that we have a shared understanding of what we are trying to achieve together.
- Sustainability: New Zealand will seek sustainability by focusing on the region’s long-term goals, to play our part in promoting greater autonomy and resilience among our Pacific friends through their improved economic and social achievement.
Other important elements of New Zealand's refreshed approach to the Pacific include:
- A renewed focus on leadership diplomacy with the Pacific, to ensure that New Zealand and the Pacific’s political leaders have the connections required to chart a common cause in the region.
- Close cooperation with Australia, and the Pacific’s other major partners - so that we are working to complementary ends.
- A larger and refocused Pacific development programme, more details of which can be found here: Our work in the Pacific
Cabinet paper: New Zealand in the Pacific [PDF, 4.1 MB]
Cabinet paper: Pacific climate change-related displacement and migration: a New Zealand action plan [PDF, 4.6 MB]
Speech by Minister of Foreign Affairs: Shifting the dial (external link)
New Zealand has one of the largest exclusive economic zones (EEZ) in the world and a significant fishing presence in the Pacific region, which is home to an abundant population of tuna. This industry alone is estimated to be worth around US$6.4 billion a year to the region, and is critical to the economies of Pacific island nations. New Zealand actively supports Pacific nations to make the most of their fisheries resources.
New Zealand is serious about addressing climate change at home and in the neighbouring Pacific islands.
New Zealand’s formal connections with the Pacific are numerous and at multilateral, regional and bilateral levels. We engage through international organisations, such as the United Nations, the WTO and the World Health Organisation, as well as regional organisations including the Pacific Islands Forum (the Forum), the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme, and the Forum Fisheries Agency. We also have formal diplomatic relations with the 14 Forum member countries and other Pacific island countries and territories.
Pacific Islands Forum
The Forum is the preeminent organisation in the region, and the Forum Leaders’ Meeting is the most important appointment on the regional calendar. There are a number of high level ministerial meetings throughout the year, which New Zealand regularly attends. We’re one of the founding countries of the organisation that preceded the Forum, the South Pacific Forum.
While New Zealand is a reasonably important trading partner for many Pacific countries, the region is becoming less reliant on us as their trading relationships with other nations grow. In 2012 6.7% of Pacific imports were from New Zealand, down from 8.6% in 1995.
In 2013 we exported goods worth $1,368 million to the Pacific, more than 13 times the $103 million we imported from the Pacific. We export similar goods to most of the larger Pacific markets. Dairy, meat, machinery, ships and iron all feature in New Zealand exports to Fiji, Papua New Guinea (PNG), New Caledonia, Samoa and the Cook Islands. Country specific exports include cement to PNG, and oil, beer, water and wine to the Cook Islands.
Money sent to the islands
However the amount of money that people earn in New Zealand and send to their Pacific home countries each year is also a significant source of income for these nations. The World Bank estimates US$300m is sent from Australia and New Zealand to Pacific countries each year. Money from New Zealand to other Polynesian countries, makes up between 15-20% of total annual economic activity for that region.
Two-way tourism has also expanded over the last 10 years. In 2013, almost 96,000 Pacific residents visited New Zealand, with almost 300,000 New Zealanders visiting the Pacific.
The Pacific faces economic and social development challenges, and much of it is vulnerable to natural disasters. It has some of the world’s smallest and most isolated states, and more than half of our aid efforts go towards the region.
We have partnerships with Pacific regional agencies that deliver targeted development across the region, and we have a presence in some countries through Volunteer Service Abroad (VSA). We’ve signed a Joint Commitment for Development with each of these five countries: the Cook Islands, Niue, Samoa, Tokelau, and Tonga. We‘re also close to signing one with Kiribati.
New Zealand works closely with regional bodies and Pacific island nations on security issues. We’re a member of different law enforcement agencies including the South Pacific Chiefs of Police, the Oceania Customs Organisation and the Pacific Immigration Directors Conference. We have also been a major contributor to the Bougainville peace process and to the Regional Assistance Mission to the Solomon Islands (RAMSI).
Pacific Security Fund
Since 2003, New Zealand has administered a Pacific Security Fund. This fund aims to enhance the security environment of the region and is worth $3 million annually. It can be used by New Zealand law enforcement and border control agencies to provide training and other support to Pacific island countries. Projects funded so far include providing police dogs to the Cooks Islands, Samoa, Tonga and Fiji, and helping Pacific island countries to meet the compliance requirements of the International Maritime Organisation's International Ships and Port Security Code.
We also provide monitoring, control and surveillance tools that help Pacific island countries to protect their fisheries.
|Cook Islands, Rarotonga||Cook Islands|
|Honolulu||Hawaii (US), Federated States of Micronesia, Marshall Islands, Palau|
|Nauru||New Zealand is represented to Nauru by a New Zealand-based High Commissioner. Email the High Commissioner.|
|New Caledonia, Nouméa||New Caledonia, Wallis and Futuna|
|Papua New Guinea, Port Moresby||Papua New Guinea|
|Samoa, Apia||American Samoa, Samoa|
|Solomon Islands, Honiara||Solomon Islands|
|Tuvalu||New Zealand is represented in Tuvalu by New Zealand-based High Commissioner Linda Te Puni.|
|Vanuatu, Port Vila||Vanuatu|