Ardern’s positive ‘Pacific reset’ tour

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, along with Minister of Foreign Affairs Winston Peters, have been on a tour of Pacific Islands this week. This is an annual tour, but this year Ardern says the aim is ‘a Pacific reset’.

As well as good PR for Ardern with a daily dose of ‘photo opportunities’, this looks like positive engagement with New Zealand’s Pacific neighbours.

RNZ (Monday):  PM’s Pacific tour begins ‘Pacific reset’

The government has kicked off what it calls the “Pacific reset”, with Jacinda Ardern beginning her first trip to the region as Prime Minister.

It comes after Foreign Minister Winston Peters promised to boost aid and embark on a new strategy with New Zealand’s Pacific neighbours.

Mr Peters will accompany Ms Ardern for the week-long trip, which will stop in Samoa, Niue, Tonga and the Cook Islands.

It will also give the Prime Minister a chance to meet the heads of the countries one-on-one before the Pacific Islands Forum later in the year.

This year’s annual Pacific Mission will focus on recovery and resilience, especially for Tonga, which was badly hit by Cyclone Gita last month.

The Council for International Development welcomed the so-called Pacific reset.

Director of the Council for International Development, Josie Pagani, said the move “signals a massive boost of energy for our work in the Pacific”.

“Improved conditions mean greater independence for the Pacific, and that’s the ultimate goal of any aid budget.”

Last year New Zealand committed over $4 million to solar panels in Niue, greatly increasing its renewable energy generation.

Climate Change Minister James Shaw, who will also be on the trip, said New Zealand would continue to invest in green initiatives like that.

“[Winston Peters] is taking the lead on the Pacific strategy, but climate change is a central part of that strategy that is emerging,” Mr Shaw said.

“I don’t want to say we did everything wrong [because] we have a pretty good track record, but we want to build on that, and to broaden it and deepen it.”

A small business delegation will also be on the Pacific Mission trip as well as other Ministers including Carmel Sepuloni, Aupito William Sio, Fletcher Tabuteau, and National MPs Gerry Brownlee and Alfred Ngaro.

It is normal for a cross-party delegation to do the tour.

RNZ (Friday): PM’s breakneck tour a hit with islands

Jacinda Ardern has completed a whirlwind trip of the Pacific Islands, stopping in Samoa, Niue, Tonga and the Cook Islands.

It was her first trip as Prime Minister, where she took the chance to meet with all the heads of the countries.

The tone for the Pacific Mission was set by foreign minister Winston Peter’s speech last week, when he said a “Pacific reset” was needed.

Jacinda Ardern referred to this ‘reset’ several times on the trip and said it was about shifting from a donor-aid relationship to a partnership.

Money was given to Samoa and Tonga for cyclone recovery, more help is on its way for Niue’s renewable energy projects, and there’s been a shift in pension rules for Niueans and Cook Islanders.

But in the words of Mr Peters, these islands are now “attracting an increasing number of external actors and interests”.

That could mean many more trips of the like to ensure New Zealand keeps up its presence in the Pacific Islands.

Peter Dunne Speaks:

Every year the Prime Minister leads a delegation of senior politicians from all parties and business leaders on a Pacific Islands tour. This week’s Prime Ministerial visit to Samoa, Niue, Tonga and the Cook Islands is the 2018 version. Inevitably, there will be those who will dismiss such tours as little more than a junket, a description which is unfair.

Having taken part in a number of them over the years, I can confirm that they are a valuable way of strengthening our relationships with the various Pacific Island states, as well as creating mutual business and trade opportunities.

However, this year’s visits have the potential to break the mould, especially if the Government’s rhetoric of the “Pacific Reset” is to be believed.  Such a reset is certainly overdue.

The goodwill towards New Zealand, and the close bonds of connection are strong, right across the Pacific. For its part, New Zealand needs to be seen to be working closely with its Pacific partners to achieve mutual social and economic progress. New Zealand’s response to the threat climate change poses to low-lying islands and their peoples will be an early test. But, so far, the first signs from this week’s visit are that the Pacific Reset is going to be positive all round.

Newsroom (Friday): Pacific trip provides shape of challenges to come

A trip to the Pacific must be a political propagandist’s dream.

The colourful clothing, beautiful backdrops and warmth of the locals meant Jacinda Ardern’s five-day visit was almost guaranteed to be a success before she landed.

That is not to do her a disservice: Ardern made the most of her stay, greeting as many locals as she could, speaking in the native language where possible and offering both aid and assurances about the region’s importance to New Zealand.

(As a side note, those carping about a waste of taxpayer money should note both John Key and Bill English made regular trips to the Pacific and partook in their fair share of photo opportunities.)

Ardern’s deputy and Foreign Affairs Minister Winston Peters says the region is his top priority, and laid out plans for more political engagement, greater funding and a closer relationship during a “Pacific reset” speech.

Speaking to media on the final day of her visit, Ardern expressed contentment with what she and her ministers had achieved.

“I’d rate this mission highly, off the back of the fact that so many of the leaders have remarked on the repositioning that this government has focused on in the Pacific that was set out by the Minister of Foreign Affairs which says, ‘Look, actually we do a lot of work across the globe but actually our relationships here in the Pacific are key, they’re increasingly important, we need to move to a partnership’, and that has been incredibly well received wherever we’ve gone.”

Peters was even more effusive: “The Prime Minister’s being extremely modest about this trip because she’s leading it, but I’ve been on a lot of Pacific trips, this has been the most successful by a long long way.”

Talk of a partnership of equals has been well received, with good reason: as Ardern pointed out, many of the Pacific nations are longstanding democracies with sophisticated leaders, some approaching developed nation status.

Writing for the Samoa Planet, Lani Wendt Young said Ardern’s remarks about the Pacific “joining” New Zealand in this generation’s nuclear-free moment were “a tad bit condescending, considering how long Pacific Island nations and advocacy groups have been championing this issue on the world stage and in the region”.

It’s always going to be difficult to get the right balance, but Ardern should learn from this – as one of a number of leaders in the region she is not going to create a revolution on her own.

The warmth of the Pacific welcome will stay with Ardern for some time, but genuine progress may prove a higher hurdle.

It always will be, but Ardern has got off to a promising start in the Pacific.

 

 

23 Comments

  1. Strong For Life

     /  March 10, 2018

    Why didn’t Miss Ardern and Mr Peters visit Fiji?

    • Gezza

       /  March 10, 2018

      Was wondering the same thing. Bainimarama was pursuing Chinese investment & made said in September 2016, when he refused to attend the Pacifc Islands forum, that NZ & Australia are not Pacific Islands & should be kicked out of the PIF. I imagine he’d not be so easily charmed. MFAT may even have been concerned he might be rude to Jacinda?

    • Corky

       /  March 10, 2018

      Apparently no official NZ party does. We hold separate talks with Fiji. That suits them and us. I can’t quite remember the radio report, but Fiji either does not belong, or is boycotting, some Pacific regional organisation that other Island nations belong to.

      Least we forget, Fiji is a dictatorship just up the road. And my, does China and Russia see huge advantages aligning themselves with a small nation that has curtailed ties with many
      other pacific nations in the region.

    • Gezza

       /  March 10, 2018

      The Fiji Minister of Defence & National Security (Ratu Inoke Kubuabola) attended the 2017 (48th) annual Pacific Islands Forum in Samoa last year. Gerry Brownlee attended for Kiwiland.

      Fiji was kicked out of the Forum after the last coup in 2009 & has been seething at the Australian & New Zealand governments for orchestrating that move ever since, even though it was readmitted in 2014.

      Some background:
      “On 2 May 2009, Fiji was suspended indefinitely from participation in the Forum with immediate effect.

      Toke Talagi, the Chair of the Pacific Islands Forum and Premier of Niue, described the suspension as “also particularly timely given the recent disturbing deterioration of the political, legal and human rights situation in Fiji since April 10, 2009”. He described Fiji as “a regime which displays such a total disregard for basic human rights, democracy and freedom” which he believed contravened membership of the Pacific Islands Forum.

      Talagi emphasised, however, that Fiji had not been expelled and that it would be welcomed back into the fold when it returned to the path of “constitutional democracy, through free and fair elections”.

      The 2009 suspension of Fiji marked the first time that a country had been suspended from the Pacific Islands Forum in the history of the then 38-year-old organization.

      Following the Fijian general election of 17 September 2014, the Forum lifted the suspension of Fiji on 22 October 2014.” wiki.

      Frank stirred things up in 2016 though:
      https://www.tvnz.co.nz/one-news/new-zealand/opinion-fiji-pms-boycott-pacific-islands-forum-perfect-timing

      Corks is probably right there have been no official delegations to Fiji from NZ yet.

  2. David

     /  March 10, 2018

    Its been a dream trip and there have been some awesome photos of Ardern looking glowing, great to see her partner having fun too and even managing to fit in some diving. The supportive media playing their part has greatly helped and glad they havent gone on about the 10s of millions that has been sprinkled around, she can look at the Nelson damage from the cyclone when she gets back so they should just shut up about being ignored.

  3. robertguyton

     /  March 10, 2018

    Petty snipes from the Right wing abound! The Yound Nats did themselves proud with their unpleasant bit of fun and earned them,selves and their wing plenty of criticism, at a time when National needs to present a kinder face – well done chaps, top hole!

    • Kitty Catkin

       /  March 10, 2018

      The Professional Offence-Takers saw the Oprah/Ardern pastiche as racist. Who knows how someone arrived at that conclusion, the POTs can see sexism and racism in the most unlikely places.

      The petty snipes were from humourless people who go around looking for the worst in everyone and hunt for meanings where they don’t exist.

      • robertguyton

         /  March 10, 2018

        The Young Nats weren’t meaning to demean with their “funnies”?
        Really?

        • Kitty Catkin

           /  March 10, 2018

          Why do you think that it was demeaning ? Oprah is one of the most successful people in the US. Jacinda Ardern is PM.

  4. alloytoo

     /  March 10, 2018

    It appears that the Pacific “reset” is an attempt offset or oppose Chinese influence in the Pacific.

    A few of thoughts.

    1. NZ’s Pacific policy shouldn’t be driven by Winston and Twyford anti-Chinese bigotry.
    2. Nor by the US’s desire retain it’s influence in the region (cue here whiny cries of ‘sovereignty’)
    3. We can’t out spend the Chinese in the region, nor should we try.

  5. The call for sovereignty is “whiny”?
    Really??

    • alloytoo

       /  March 10, 2018

      Depends on who’s doing the calling and why.

      • robertguyton

         /  March 10, 2018

        If you were able to expand your claim, I’d know what you were trying to say.

        • alloytoo

           /  March 10, 2018

          I very much doubt that.

          • robertguyton

             /  March 10, 2018

            You’re unable to communicate your ideas with clarity?

          • alloytoo

             /  March 11, 2018

            No, I merely doubt your wish to comprehend. I therefore have no desire to waste my time.

            • robertguyton

               /  March 11, 2018

              Yet despite your belief I’ve drawn 4 comments from you thus wasting your time, so I guess I did well.

  6. Kitty Catkin

     /  March 10, 2018

    The $4,000,000 is a tiny fraction of what is being handed out to students who don’t finish the first year of university or tertiary education of other kinds.

    I suppose that the Pacific Island people don’t vote here, but the students may well be influenced by the kind gesture of this money.

  7. phantom snowflake

     /  March 10, 2018

    In response to Mike Hosking’s criticism of New Zealand’s aid to the Pacific (basically on the grounds of “what do we get out of it?”) here’s a fabulous rant from Martyn Bradbury. I can feel the spit flying and smell the fevered brow sweat…

    5: And the 5th reason as to why we need to keep shelling money out to the Pacific Mike, the most important of the reasons? Because we, as New Zealanders are fucking arseholes Mike. We. Are. Fucking. Arseholes.

    Let’s start with NZ incompetence in Samoa that saw the influenza pandemic come ashore and almost wipe out the entire Island or Black Sunday that saw NZ forces kill 11 Samoans. What about the way we brought Tongans into the country in the 1970s as cheap labour but when it was politically expedient start dawn raids to force them out? How about the fact that the Cooks, Niue and the Tokelau islands are actually still under control of NZ, which means we are responsible for them Mike? Are you even aware that they are free association states officially placed under NZ sovereignty?

    https://thedailyblog.co.nz/2018/03/09/dear-mike-hosking-5-reasons-we-owe-the-pacific/

    • Gezza

       /  March 10, 2018

      we, as New Zealanders are fucking arseholes Mike. We. Are. Fucking. Arseholes.

      Just like to make it clear Martyn doesn’t speak for me here. No probs with him speaking for himself.

      • phantom snowflake

         /  March 10, 2018

        Hyperbole is just part of his style, that’s how he rolls. New Zealand has a seriously shitty history as a colonial power in Samoa. Oral tradition has it that the previous, German administration was far less repressive. I think it says a lot about the Samoan national character that they forgave us so quickly. Not sure if this is your ‘thing’ but here’s an overview of Samoa’s struggle against its New Zealand overlords.

        https://nvdatabase.swarthmore.edu/content/mau-opposition-new-zealand-rule-samoa-1927-1933

    • Gezza

       /  March 10, 2018

      I did quite like his fourth reason:

      4: The fourth reason we want to keep them onside you stupid muppet Mike, is because the bloody Chinese have moved into our neck of the woods and are bribing every Pacific Island they can, and that we need to counter that influence with some clever tactics like Rugby Diplomacy and promotion of Journalism. That you seem to have made these comments about Pacific Aid with no comprehension whatsoever of the geopolitics that are being played out in the US-China Pacific Cold War is truly astounding for someone who is on the largest radio Breakfast show in the country. It’s like reviewing a movie by complaining how much the pop corn costs. What kind of moron are you?

      I watched the Mike’s Minute video on this. Good to see his Mrs took her jacket back. I don’t think Mike really delved into this one too thoroughly before sounding off.