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By Giles Dexter, RNZ News reporter, in Niue

Prime Minister Christopher Luxon says he wants New Zealand to be a partner of choice in the Pacific, as other countries make moves in the region.

Luxon is in Niue ahead of bilateral talks with Premier Dalton Tagalagi, and to celebrate 50 years of free association between the two countries.

Niue is self-governing, but part of New Zealand’s realm. Its citizens are NZ citizens, and New Zealand provides it with aid when asked.

Luxon said it was special to make Niue the first Pacific Island nation he has visited since taking office.

“I think the relationship’s in good heart. I think there’s a lot more for us to do together,” Luxon said.

Christopher Luxon greets Niue PM, Dalton Tagelagi
Luxon is greeted by Niue Premier Dalton Tagalagi. Image: RNZ/Giles Dexter

Upon landing at Hanan International Airport, Luxon was greeted with an embrace from the Premier and a rousing takalo reception.

Later at the High Commission, Luxon and Tagalagi celebrated the King’s Birthday — Niue is 23 hours behind New Zealand, on the other side of the International Dateline — and toasted the relationship.

‘Rely heavily on support’
“I know that we rely heavily on your support. But we’re doing our very best to help ourselves also,” Tagalagi said.

The Speaker of Niue’s Assembly Hima Douglas said the relationship had given Niue peace, security and tranquility.

“When we look back, Prime Minister, we could not have asked for a better country to look after Niue. We could not have asked for a better development partner,” he said.

Luxon stands during a ceremony in Niue.
Luxon stands during a ceremony in Niue. Image: RNZ/Giles Dexter

But as Niue celebrated the past, it was also looking to the future.

MP Emani Fakaotimanava-Lui told RNZ Pacific he wanted to see Niue generating its own finances.

“It would be best for Niue to look at how we can grow with New Zealand towards the next 50 years, possibly to be self-sustaining. Not to be dependent on New Zealand,” he said.

“Every time we need cash, we’re coming to the New Zealand government to ask can we get this money, can we get that money.”

Always a trusted partner
Luxon said he wanted Niue to understand New Zealand would always be a trusted partner.

“I think it’s about us betting really clear about the core infrastructure that sets Niue up for success. And doing what we can as New Zealand to support Niue, one of our realm countries, to make sure it is set up for success with a platform it needs to go forward.”

Bilateral talks between Luxon and Tagalagi will take place later today.

Luxon said the two would discuss the future of the relationship and how it sits in an increasingly contested region, as other nations start to woo the Pacific.

China has become Niue’s second largest trading partner, and has supported Niue with more investment.

“There’s… more strategic competition, whether it’s China, whether it’s the US, whether it’s other powers as well,” Luxon said.

“But this is the Pacific family and we prioritise the centrality of the Pacific Island Forum, we want that to be the regional architecture that deals with challenges within the region. But this is a fantastic region, and it has huge opportunity, and we want to be a trusted partner and a partner of choice.”

This afternoon Luxon heads to Fiji for the next stop on his Pacific mission, with geostrategic choppy water set to rear its head again.

This article is republished under a community partnership agreement with RNZ.

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