New Zealand’s Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Affairs Minister, Rt Hon Winston Peters and the Minster for Health and Pacific Peoples, Dr Shane Reti are taking on three countries in three days in a visit aimed at reinforcing Aotearoa’s ties with the Pacific.
The first leg of the trip began in Tonga, then the Cook Islands, and finally Samoa.
Peters met with Tongan Deputy Prime Minister Samiu Vaipulu on Wednesday morning, Cook Islands Prime Minister Mark Brown on Thursday, and Prime Minister of Samoa Hon Fiamē Naomi Mataʻafa on Friday, before leaving midday Saturday.
Winston will also attend a special reception at Taumeasina Island Resort in Apia on Friday night as part of the tour programme.
Visiting Pacific leaders face-to-face has been a priority for Peters, who heavily criticised his predecessor, Labour’s Nanaia Mahuta, for failing to do so. Much of her travel was put off due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
In a statement, Peters said New Zealand has close political, economic, and people-to-people ties in Polynesia.
“This trip is an opportunity for New Zealand to continue to strengthen and progress our bilateral cooperation with Tonga, Cook Islands, and Samoa while supporting each country’s respective development goals,” he said.
Winston Peters spearheaded the Pacific Reset when he was NZ Foreign Minister in 2018, and has said the new coalition government would renew this strategy – which set a focus on partnership and doing more to tackle the big issues facing the region.
This includes the effects of climate change. Rising sea levels are threatening many countries in the Pacific, including Tuvalu – forecasted to be completely submerged by the end of the century.
Peters is also expected to discuss labour mobility issues and the recognised seasonal employers (RSE) scheme when he meets with leaders in Samoa.
The National-led government has promised to clamp down on migrant worker exploitation, and is seeking to change immigration settings to let much-needed workers in, without driving down wages.
It is Peters’ second trip to the region after he visited Fiji in December where he met with the Fijian Prime Minister and Pacific Islands Forum Secretary-General Henry Puna.