During a whistle-stop tour of Samoa, Tonga, Niue and the Cook Islands, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has promised a ‘reset’ of Pacific policy. She says her government can and will do better in the region. Speaking at the Lowy Institute in Australia on March 1st, Foreign Minister Winston Peters stressed the need to ‘shift the dial’ on New Zealand’s Pacific policy. But beyond a few new projects to build roads, provide cyclone relief, and assist small businesses, and a sensible revision to rules about portability of pensions, what is really likely to change as regards New Zealand’s Pacific policy?
Much of Mr Peters’ Lowy Institute speech offered the familiar warm words about New Zealand’s distinctive Pacific identity, but he also indicated considerable ‘anxiety’ about China’s presence in the region. Bearing hallmarks of continuity rather than change, Mr Peters echoed the focus of his predecessor on ‘sustainable economic development’. That prioritization has been contested by some critics of former Minister of Foreign Affairs Murray McCully’s aid policy, who prefer instead a focus on poverty alleviation and social welfare.