New Zealand’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Hon. Nanaia Mahuta, along with her senior delegation of officials, arrived on the island on Monday this week.
According to the official website of the Government of New Zealand, the purpose of her visit to both Niue and Tonga is to “engage kanohi ki te kanohi with counterparts, and progress work on Aotearoa New Zealand’s Pacific Resilience and climate action priorities.”
“After the disruption caused by COVID-19 border closures, this is another opportunity to connect in-person with our Pacific whanau, reaffirm Aotearoa New Zealand’s enduring links with the region, and commit to future cooperation,” says Hon. Mahuta.
Yesterday, Hon. Nanaia Mahuta exchanged greetings with the Premier Hon. Dalton Tagelagi followed by a special session of the Fono Ekepule, Niue Legislative Assembly, inside the Fale Fono II chambers.
Hon. Mahuta expressed warm greetings to the fono ekepule and as the first Minister of the New Zealand Government and outside speaker to address the assembly.
The Minister spoke of the endearing relationship between Niue and New Zealand.
“This opportunity to deliver a few words here on the floor of the chamber within the Fale Fono ke Uaaki is a great honour. And to be here with you to reinforce the special relationship that Niue and Aotearoa New Zealand both have in the past, present and moving forward into the future is a real opportunity.”
“Our ties are deep, they’re longstanding and founded on our shared whakapapa and connection,” says Hon. Mahuta.
The Foreign Minister was also welcomed to the Taoga Niue museum.
During the welcoming, the Minister of Social Services Hon. Sauni Tongatule was presented by Hon. Mahuta with the Tohi Tapu Vagahau Niue (Niuean Holy Bible) and a photo album that belonged to the Lawes family who had lived on the island and served as missionaries to the people of Niue during the nineteenth century.
Hon. Mahuta also visited Niue High School on Tuesday afternoon where she opened the refurbished buildings and areas of the school that have been upgraded by the New Zealand Defence Force contingent under project Tropic Twilight.
According to the official website of the New Zealand Government, Foreign Minister Mahuta discussed “new initiatives to support the preservation of Vagahau Niue and other Pacific languages through greater collaboration, and sharing of teaching and learning resources.”
Niue High School Head Boy Tongakilo-Rhys Tohovaka and Head Girl Jus’Al Mokoia also delivered speeches. The Minister was also greeted with a special takalo performance by the Niue High School boys.
Earlier this morning, Foreign Minister Mahuta had a short call with the Downers crew before heading to the Makini Hall in Alofi to meet with the Niue Council of Women.
The Minister was greeted with joyful singing and was presented with cultural Niuean gifts to mark her official visit.
BCN News spoke with Hon. Mahuta who shared her views on Niue and New Zealand’s long-standing relationship.
“The signing of the Statement of Partnership between the Premier of Niue and our Prime Minister signals that we are ready to take the relationship to another level.”
“What that means is that we can work over the next two years which would be a milestone year in our relationship to figure out what are the most important areas that will signal we are moving to the next level.”
“I think about climate change, I think about what we can do about language revitalisation but there could be other things. So we are going to give ourselves time to develop that work programme,” says the Minister.
Foreign Minister Hon. Nanaia Mahuta says that Niue has performed well in its response to the Covid-19 outbreak.
“Niue has done a really good job in responding to Covid and it’s been really challenging economically because borders have been closed and there’s been no tourism. But what it’s done it’s given Niue the opportunity to think about its next steps to build back economic resilience.”
“I’m confident that there will be real opportunities in front of Niue,” says Hon. Mahuta.
“I want to encourage women in Niue to continue to be the leaders that they already are and grow young leaders because we know that the future of Niue rests on young people seeing a vision for themselves here in their own country but also connecting with the world.”
“What that will mean is an opportunity for young leadership to come through and express itself at all layers; the community, in politics and various areas of political leadership but also in business leadership as well.”
The Foreign Minister expressed her profound gratitude for the people of Niue in welcoming her to the island.
“The warmth of the people has really struck me. And I go to Tonga now feeling like I’ve got a sense of connection, real connection to Niue. I feel really humbled about this visit and grateful for the hospitality that has been shown to me,” says Hon. Mahuta.
The Foreign Minister and her delegation departed the island to Tonga this morning.