Fiji must be thrilled – one of our very busy ministers has visited that country in recent days, another is planning to visit, and a third has been involved in a webinar conference. of the New Zealand-Fiji Business Council.
The minister who has been and gone was Peeni Henare, whose mission was defence-focused.
The minister who engaged in the virtual conference was Rino Tirikatane, who delivered a speech at the Fiji Trade Recovery Roadshow Webinar. We assume he spoke from the Beehive.
And the minister who will visit – the icing on the cake, so to speak – is Foreign Affairs Minister Nanaia Mahuta. She departs for Fiji next week, her first trip to the Pacific since announcing New Zealand’s Pacific Resilience approach last year.
The announcement was posted on the Beehive website along with news that …
- Rural Communities Minister Damien O’Connor has classified the storm that caused significant flood damage across the Tairāwhiti district and Hawke’s Bay region a medium-scale adverse event, “unlocking Government support for farmers and growers”. The sum of $150,000 is being made available to help the region’s farmers and growers recover from the heavy rain across Tairāwhiti and Hawke’s Bay, bringing total Government support to $325,000;
The Minister for Diversity, Inclusion and Ethnic Communities, Priyanca Radhakrishnan, has launched a plan to boost employment outcomes for former refugees, recent migrants and ethnic communities. This was her first press statement since October 28, when she announced a new Vaccine Uptake Fund to support COVID-19 vaccination among ethnic communities.
Nanaia Mahuta announced her plans in the mix of English and te reo that has become the argot of Ardern ministers and (increasingly) mainstream news media:
“This visit is an important step in reconnecting Aotearoa New Zealand with our Pacific whanaunga, and an opportunity to engage on key issues facing our region,” Nanaia Mahuta said.
She did not provide a translation for the uninitiated, but Point of Order took time out to check out what she had said:
- (noun) relative, relation, kin, blood relation.
Mahuta will meet with Fiji’s Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs, Josaia Voreqe Bainimarama; attend an event at the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat; participate in a Fijian women leaders’ roundtable; and visit development projects.
She departs on Monday subject to the Fijian Government’s COVID-19 protocols, and will return on 31 March.
During his visit, Peeni Henare met with his Fijian counterpart Minister of Defence, Inia Seruiratu, to, among other things, “secure the Pacific”.
According to RNZ, Henare said New Zealand was concerned about the region’s security, defence capabilities, as well as its post-pandemic economic resilience.
That’s great. But the Point of Order team became uneasy on learning that, on the issue of United States engagement in the Pacific, Henare said it wasn’t clear why the New Zealand government was not part of Pacific talks in Fiji, during the February visit of the US Secretary of State Antony Blinken.
Our Minister of Defence doesn’t know why we weren’t part of those talks?
Did he try to find out?
He proceeded to say he welcomed US military support in the region.
Henare made it clear that NZ defence regional support would focus on maritime surveillance and humanitarian assistance.
So far, so good. But:
He also hinted that the United States was an important ally to have, when issues arose over Chinese interests in the Pacific Region.
Here’s hoping the reporter misinterpreted his remarks and that he did something more than just hint about our relationship with the US.
Fair to say, what followed was clear:
“We always welcome the US engagement in the Pacific because we can’t do it alone but we want to be very clear that it is our priority. They’ve made it clear their position on China,” Henare said.
“I’ve said to them as a defence minister, and as a country, that while we’re mindful of what’s happening in the South China Sea, in order for us to be a key part of security in this region, we must be able to secure the Pacific, we must be able to show with our limited capability that we can be responsible for our own backyard.
“For example, New Zealand only has two frigates, sending them to the South China Sea means that we leave a particular hole in the Pacific.”
“So we need to be quite smart about the way we engage but we welcome the US. I’ve spoken with Secretary Austin, their Defence Secretary on a number of occasions, and he’s committed to the Pacific too and I look forward to that relationship,” he said.
Latest from the Beehive
Rural Communities Minister Damien O’Connor has classified the storm that caused significant flood damage across the Tairāwhiti district and Hawke’s Bay region a medium-scale adverse event, unlocking
Minister for Diversity, Inclusion and Ethnic Communities Priyanca Radhakrishnan has today launched a plan to boost employment outcomes for former refugees, recent migrants and ethnic communities.
Foreign Affairs Minister Nanaia Mahuta departs for Fiji next week, her first trip to the Pacific since announcing New Zealand’s Pacific Resilience approach last year.