National | Australia

Henare to make first visits as Defence Minister to Fiji and Australia

Photo / File

Peeni Henare will today depart for his first overseas visits as Minister of Defence since Covid-19 restrictions began, travelling to Fiji and Australia to meet defence counterparts.

The aim of the visits is to reaffirm NZ's commitment to regional security in the Pacific and discuss ways to strengthen defence cooperation with partners, a government statement says.

“New Zealand’s defence relationship with Fiji is strong, and characterised by enduring person-to-person relationships built up over many years," Henare says.

Henare will meet with Fiji's Defence Minister Inia Seruiratu to discuss ways to increase defence cooperation, and how best to support Pacific partners to provide solutions to the region’s challenges.

During the visit, he will attend a remembrance ceremony at the national war memorial, and tour a recently commissioned peacekeeping and humanitarian assistance and disaster relief camp, and Fiji’s maritime surveillance rescue coordination centre.

From Fiji, Henare will travel to Australia and meet with Australian Defence Minister, Peter Dutton.

“Australia is New Zealand’s only formal defence ally and one of our closest security and bilateral partners, so it was important to me that my first overseas travel included our trans-Tasman neighbour."

Henare says he will discuss with Minister Dutton how the two countries can further strengthen their defence bilateral relationship, especially within the Pacific.

While in Australia, Henare will give an address to the Australian war college, participate in a roundtable discussion with the Australian strategic policy institute, and lay a wreath at the Australian War Memorial.

He will also engage with the Australian defence industry to explore opportunities for New Zealand suppliers and gain insights into capabilities relevant to the New Zealand Defence Force.

Henare says his discussions with counterparts in Fiji and Australia will include identifying ways to regenerate New Zealand’s Defence Force readiness and capability in a post-Covid-19 world.