New Zealand may need to change its approach in the way it has been dealing with the Pacific, and according to New Zealand Foreign Minister Nanaia Mahuta there is a need to broaden that approach.
New Zealand has stayed away from the Pacific unlike its partner Australia who has emerged with a vastly different approach.
Australia has been quick to visit the region and has been strong on its stand when geopolitical pressure was the focus.
New Zealand however, had has a laid back approach letting the Pacific nation deal with its issues.
However, after a meeting between the Australian Foreign Minister Penny Wong and her New Zealand counterpart Ms Mahuta last week, they have come out saying the two nations have a shared view of the Pacific.
Will the region get to see a different approach from the folks from the Land of the Long White Cloud?
Ms Mahuta said after her meeting with Ms Wong that they spoke of coordinated foreign policies.
“In an increasing uncertain and risky geosecurity environment, it’s really important that we communicate and coordinate across the foreign policy spectrum,” Ms Mahuta said.
“As we’ve set out in our joint statement, having a neighbour who is also a close friend is more essential than ever for the security and wellbeing of the citizens of both nations.”
China was discussed between the two nations and both recognised the Pacific is a contested space.
While China’s interest in the region is something the two nations are wary of, climate change and economic resilience are areas with opportunities for a joint approach to the region.
“I think our relationship across the Pacific is very strong and when I came into the role certainly started to ensure that we had a range of engagements with the Pacific,” said Ms Mahuta.
“As borders open I’ve indicated that I will go to the Pacific and certainly with the PIF coming up very soon, that is an area where I want to ensure that we can address some of the regional issues, so I’m keen to be travelling to the Pacific.”
Unlike New Zealand, Australia has admitted that it needs to do more for the Pacific but in doing so has to stay away from the domestic politics of Pacific nations.
“I think we live in a time where we know that there is a lot more contest. I think, more competition in the world in which we live,” said Ms Wong.
“We should be focused on working with others about what we’re for. And what we’re for is peace, prosperity, stability, and the rules of the road being predictable and applicable to all nations regardless of their size.”
Australia’s renewed ambition in the Pacific focuses on climate, labour mobility, the Pacific Engagement Visa and additional development assistance.
New Zealand has just announced more spaces in its visa scheme which allows allocation to Pacific islanders for residency status. However, the increased quota is just the backlog that has occurred when international borders were closed.
There is also a view that New Zealand has focused primarily on Polynesian nations, Australia on Melanesia and the United States on Micronesia.
“In our conversations we’ve identified that we need to broaden our collective approach in terms of the relationship across the whole of the Pacific and we are both agreed that things have changed. As I said earlier, the Pacific is a contested space,” Ms Mahuta said.
“We need to work together through regional institutions to support the Pacific in their aspirations. That will require, by and large, an aligned effort but it will also rely on our ability to broaden our relationship and we’ve both identified that that is needed now; things have changed.
“We are in a new conversation space around where the Pacific priorities must be led from and it’s certainly our view that the Pacific are key to articulating what that looks like.”