Perhaps aside from a few of its Pacific neighbours, not many countries treat Australia as a major power. But that is exactly what New Zealand does. This means that Australia constitutes more than New Zealand’s most important diplomatic relationship, as significant as that may be. It also makes Australia essential to explaining the foreign policy choices New Zealand makes beyond the trans-Tasman relationship and how these choices are depicted and understood.
There are three ways of viewing Australia's significance to Wellington. In the first instance, and most obviously, Australia is a partner with cooperative endeavours in all sorts of functional policy areas. But secondly, Australia is also something of a competitor for New Zealand: contrasts with Australia, and how Australia does things, are often used to define New Zealand as a distinct foreign policy actor. And yet thirdly, Australia is also a facilitator for New Zealand foreign policy: Australia helps provide space and opportunities for the choices that Wellington makes. Yet none of this is automatic or inevitable, and in the current circumstances of global and regional flux, nobody should assume Australia’s role can be assumed as a given.