• Don McKinnon
Foreign Affairs and Trade

Foreign Minister Don McKinnon leaves New Zealand on Monday to visit the Cook Islands, French Polynesia, Niue, Samoa, American Samoa and Tonga.

Mr McKinnon said his visit was an important one, as it presented an opportunity to further develop the relationships New Zealand enjoyed with its closest neighbours in the South Pacific. It would also emphasise New Zealand's on-going commitment to the region.

"This visit will increase our understanding of these countries and their on-going relationship with New Zealand. We enjoy warm, friendly relationships with all our South Pacific neighbours but we must continually seek to build on the ties which link us culturally, socially and economically," Mr McKinnon said.

"My discussions with leaders and senior ministers will be wide-ranging, and will cover issues such as the economic and political developments of each host country; economic reform and good governance in the South Pacific; environmental issues such as climate change, and New Zealand's Overseas Development Assistance.

"The visit will also provide an opportunity for discussions and informal exchanges of views with officials prior to the South Pacific Leaders Forum to be held in Palau in October."

Mr McKinnon will be accompanied by MPs from National, Labour, Mauri Pacific, ACT, and New Zealand First parties. The 40-strong delegation also includes South Pacific Trade Commissioner Parmesh Chand; representatives from the Pacific Development and Conservation Trust, Pacific Health, and non-governmental organisations, as well as students and officials.