Politics | Pacific

Was Winston Peters missing Shane Jones in the Pacific?

Reflections on the coalition government’s 2024 Pacific mission

They went to three different Polynesian countries in five days.

This was the week that was for Deputy Prime Minister, Vaovasamaia Winston Peters, and Minister of Health and Pacific Peoples, Dr Shane Reti.

Peters looked to have found it confusing to not have his New Zealand First mate Shane Jones by his side, as he continuously referred to Shane Reti as Shane Jones.

He made the mistake in all three islands while speaking, and then laughing at himself before apologising - often blaming it on the intense emotions and protests at Waitangi, as the reason for his confusion and muddling of names.

So what does the public need to know about the Deputy Prime Minister’s visits to Tonga, the Cook Islands and Samoa?

In Tonga, no money was promised by New Zealand. This could be due to Tonga owing China almost NZ$200 million.

Peters did not offer an explanation. However, Deputy Prime Minister of Tonga, Samiu Vaipulu, signalled that their kingdom will be ok.

“We believe that over the next five years, we will be finished,” Vaipulu says.

Peters’ visit to the Cook Islands saw the New Zealand government commit NZ$16.5 million to help deal with the increasing impacts of climate change.

New Zealand will not be the only country the Pacific nation seeks money from. Cook Islands Prime Minister Mark Brown will head to the United States to lobby other countries to pledge more.

Brown feels it’s not about stopping climate change now, it’s about building stronger structures around the whole Pacific.

“Building resilience against the impacts of climate change, it’s something that’s not new for Pacific countries. It’s an ongoing everyday experience,” Brown says.

Peters was the main character in this ‘Pacific Mission’ movie, while Reti stood quietly in the back not having to answer many questions.

It was the same in Samoa when Peters met with Prime Minister Fiamē Naomi Mata’afa and committed NZ$30 million to the Polynesian Health Corridors, at the National University of Samoa, to help support Pacific health goals.

Their main discussion, however, was about Samoa hosting the Commonwealth Heads of Governments Meeting (CHOGM) this August.

Fiamē is excited that Samoa will be the first Pacific country outside of Australia and Aotearoa to host the event and is confident in its ability to do so.

“Especially in the areas of security, New Zealand reached out and we’re probably the first task force to get going in preparation for CHOGM,” she says.

Over 50 leaders from the Commonwealth are expected to attend CHOGM, accompanied by their respective entourages and media teams.

Fiamē says that New Zealand has provided financial assistance for a cruise ship to serve as accommodation, similar to what was arranged for the Small Island Development Conference in 2014.

Peters and Reti have now returned home to New Zealand, ready to resume four weeks of parliament debates.