Wong taken by NZ's Maori foreign policy

·3-min read

New Zealand has pledged to work with Australia as it develops a First Nations foreign policy, following bilateral talks in Wellington.

On Thursday, Australian Foreign Minister Penny Wong met with New Zealand counterpart Nanaia Mahuta.

The pair discussed Pacific security, and the role of climate change ahead of next month's pivotal Pacific Islands Forum leaders meeting.

They also touched on recent trans-Tasman issues, including deportations to Aotearoa, and improved rights for Kiwis in Australia.

Ms Wong echoed comments by Prime Minister Anthony Albanese last week that she had heard New Zealand's "forceful" representations on deportations.

The jet-setting foreign minister appeared genuinely touched - to the point of losing her place in a joint press conference - when discussing the greeting she received at parliament house.

The two delegations participated in a powhiri, or welcoming ceremony, which involved Ms Wong and her Australian team singing a waiata, a Maori song.

"I was really moved. I'm too much of a softy some times," she said.

"It's an action of honour and respect isn't it, and you feel the power of that, being welcomed to someone's land. You feel the import of that.

"Sorry, what was the first part of your question?"

Just as New Zealand is doing, Labor has pledged to build indigenous values into its foreign policy, and Ms Wong believes Ms Mahuta has shown the way.

Since her appointment in 2020, the Kiwi foreign minister has embedded Maori values within her nation's policy, including "manaakitanga", or reciprocity, "whanaungatanga", or shared humanity, and "kaitiakitanga", or caring for future generations.

One of her first major speeches, given to the New Zealand China Council, was titled the "taniwha and the dragon", using the two creatures of Maori and Chinese mythology.

Ms Wong showered praise on Ms Mahuta, saying she brought "such a depth of personal wisdom" to New Zealand's remaking of its own foreign policy.

"I read a couple of speeches from foreign minister Mahuta in preparation for this (meeting) where she talked about concepts, Maori concepts, that were important to her foreign policy," Ms Wong said.

"They were extraordinarily powerful. They're not speeches I could give yet, around what it is from First Nations heritage that we would want to include.

"We have the privilege of one the oldest continuing cultures on Earth and we should integrate that much more into how we engage with the world and how we talk to and with the world and about ourselves.

"We can learn a lot from your country."

Ms Mahuta said New Zealand stood ready to support Labor's indigenous remaking of the constitution in Australia.

"I hope that your journey with regards to responding and implementing the Uluru Statement is one that we can share and support," she said.

Ms Wong, who heads to Solomon Islands on Friday, said Australia had "more to do as a member of the Pacific family", including on Pacific indebtedness.

"The sustainability of debt financing for developing countries, particularly those in our region, is of interest to both nations. It goes to sovereignty and choice and it goes to stability (and) potentially goes to security," she said.

"Both countries are seized, as are other members of the Pacific Islands Forum, about the importance of debt arrangements which are reasonable and fair."

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