The bond between the Pacific and New Zealand will never break, Foreign Affairs Minister Nanaia Mahuta says.
Speaking at a welcome ceremony for her in the Cook Islands on Thursday, Mahuta said Aotearoa is a country in and of the Pacific.
Our ties to the Cook Islands and its people run deep through whakapapa, language, culture and shared interests.”
Mahuta also announced a further $5 million pandemic support for the region.
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Mahuta visited Tonga, Niue, Kiribati, Fiji and Papua New Guinea earlier and hosted the leaders of Samoa, Australia and the Solomon Islands.
Mahuta said the visit to the Cook Islands, her first, was an opportunity to engage with Pacific whānaunga and commit to future co-operation.
“I look forward to reinforcing the importance of our relationship during meetings with Prime Minister Mark Brown, other members of the Cook Islands Government and the community.”
Mahuta signed a partnership – Waka Hourua/Vaka Purua – with Brown on Friday which “reflects a commitment to work together on issues of shared interests and importance, recognises our countries’ special links, and elevates our relationship to a new level of expanded co-operation”.
Waka Hourua and Vaka Purua are the Aotearoa New Zealand Māori and Cook Islands Māori terms for the traditional double-hulled canoes that used to journey between the two countries,” she said.
“The name symbolises the enduring links that exist between the Cook Islands and Aotearoa New Zealand, and the intention to continue to work together to navigate future challenges and opportunities.
“Aotearoa New Zealand and the Cook Islands share deep whakapapa connections which are bound together by Te-Moana-nui-a-Kiwa – our Blue Pacific Continent.”
The package of support includes:
Additional funding of $3.8 million for the Polynesian Health Corridors programme for pandemic preparedness and response over the next year, to continue Covid-19 immunisation support, provide public health advice and help strengthen the health workforce.
A $1.1m contribution to the World Health Organisation to increase access to Covid-19 therapeutics in the wider Pacific, with accompanying technical support.
Access to Covid-19 oral antivirals from NZ’s domestic supply for the Cook Islands, Niue and Tokelau. There will be accompanying guidance and support, facilitated by the Polynesian Health Corridors team, through clinical specialists and organisations in NZ.
Provision of second Covid-19 Pfizer vaccine boosters to the Cook Islands, Niue and Tokelau as requested.
Mahuta said the support emphasised shared priority areas and common goals such as addressing climate change and strengthening resilience, enhancing our security, and ensuring a sustainable economic recovery from Covid-19.
“Prime Minister Brown and I shared warm discussions on a range of issues including climate change co-operation, tourism, Covid-19 response and economic recovery. We also had the opportunity to visit infrastructure projects supported by Aotearoa New Zealand.
“Building on the 2001 Joint Centenary Declaration, this is a significant milestone in our relationship and provides a roadmap of commitments for the future. Today is about celebrating our shared successes and highlights our joint ambitions for a prosperous and safe Pacific region,” Mahuta said.
She was welcomed in the Cook Islands by Te Ui Ariki – House of Ariki the traditional leaders, and visited development projects including Rarotonga Hospital where she met frontline workers.
“It is a challenging time for the Pacific with the ongoing pandemic recovery and the intensifying impacts of climate change. The need to build and support long-term resilience is vital and Aotearoa New Zealand is committed to doing our part,” Mahuta said.
The foreign affairs minister also travelled to Manihiki Island in the Pa Enua, the outer islands of the Cook Islands.
She visited areas impacted by climate change and discussed how New Zealand could continue to support the Pacific nation’s climate priorities through renewable energy.
Mahuta returns home on Sunday.
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