Mahuta off to PNG as Foreign Minister continues visits to NZ's 'Pacific whanaunga'

By Kelvin McDonald

Nanaia Mahuta will travel to Papua New Guinea this week as the NZ Foreign Minister continues to engage kanohi ki te kanohi with Pacific leaders.

This follows her recent visit to Tonga where she announced $8m investment in climate action projects.

"As we continue to reconnect Aotearoa New Zealand with the world, it is vital that we invest time and effort into strengthening our ties with partners, especially in our own Pacific region," said Mahuta, who will travel to PNG on Monday.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is on record as saying NZ does not have bilateral relationships with the Pacific, "we have family relationships". However, it is clear that the Solomon Islands' surprise defence pact with China in April is an important consideration in the government ensuring it maintains close relations with the country's Pacific whanaunga.

“This has, and continues to be, a challenging time for Papua New Guinea and Te Moana-nui-a-Kiwa. With the ongoing impacts of COVID-19, climate change, and an increasingly complex security environment, the need to support and build resilience is more important than ever," the NZ Foreign Minister said in a statement on Friday. 

Mahuta has a busy schedule of engagements in PNG before her return to Aotearoa on Thursday.

“During my visit, I will also meet with other political and community leaders, and attend a roundtable lunch with participants from the Political Leadership Academy for Women where our focus will be on gender equality and empowerment for women and girls.

“Access to sexual and reproductive health and rights is a critical component of achieving sustainable development goals and many of our Pacific whanaunga need sustainable investment to do so. I look forward to discussing this further with NGOs and visiting health development initiatives while in Port Moresby," she said. 

“I also intend to visit agricultural projects that New Zealand has supported. Engaging with these will include travelling to Mt Hagen and hearing about peacebuilding work from the United Nations and International Committee of the Red Cross representatives."

Mahuta said NZ continues to support PNG's efforts to achieve prosperity.

“New Zealand remains committed to working alongside Papua New Guinea, to ensure a more resilient, stable and prosperous Pacific region, for the benefit of all who are part of our Blue Pacific Continent.”