Kia Hora te Marino: A Peaceful, Prosperous and Stable Indo-Pacific

Foreign Affairs

Hon Nanaia Mahuta, Minister of Foreign Affairs

Speech to the Foreign Policy Community of Indonesia

Tuesday 16 November 2021

Kia Hora te Marino: A Peaceful, Prosperous and Stable Indo-Pacific


E ngā mounga o tena mana, o tena mana, E nga ihopūmanawa e karahuihui mai nei, tēnā koutou katoa.

Ladies and Gentlemen, Distinguished Guests,

Good afternoon, Selamat Siang

Kia koutou katoa.

I would like to start by thanking Ambassador Dino, and the Foreign Policy Community of Indonesia for arranging today’s event. Organisations such as FPCI play an important role in fostering debate and discussion on foreign policy issues, as well as connecting those who are affected by foreign policy to those who are the decision-makers.

With that in mind, it’s my pleasure to speak to you today about Aotearoa New Zealand and ASEAN, and the importance of our partnership in the Indo-Pacific.

Let me first contextualise by drawing on part of a karakia (sacred prayer) it goes like this: kia hora te marino, kia whakapapa pounamu te moana, kia tere te kārohirohi, ko to hoa hāere ko te rangimarie – in simple translation – May the calm be widespread, may the ocean glisten like greenstone, may there be an eternal glimmer of light on your path, may peace always be your travelling companion.

The importance of the Indo-Pacific – Relationships, Peace and Stability

New Zealand is a young nation anchored in the Pacific and part of the broader Indo-Pacific region. A diverse region with huge economic dynamism and opportunity, almost 75% of New Zealand’s trade is with the Indo-Pacific. ASEAN is New Zealand’s third largest trading partner – with six individual ASEAN Member States sitting in our top twenty trading partners – and we actively contribute to the regional integration agenda through trade agreements such as AANZFTA, RCEP, and CPTPP. 

And trade is just one dimension of the relationship that connects Aotearoa to this region.

Our people-to-people links are strong. Centuries ago, Māori tūpuna (ancestors) voyaged through the region on their way to Aotearoa. Māori belong to the Austronesian language group which holds deep connections to South East Asia. It is no wonder that generations of students and migrants from South East Asian countries and beyond have come to call New Zealand home, contributing richly to the vibrancy of our society.

Aotearoa New Zealand is active and engaged in the region and has a long history of cooperation. We have recognised for decades that what happens in the wider Indo-Pacific impacts materially on our neighbourhood the Pacific; its well-being, and its prosperity.

Like all good relationships, we share common objectives that help to promote a more peaceful, prosperous and stable region. Our support for rules-based international order, adherence to institutions and norms, and promoting economic integration has yielded enormous benefits. Promoting multilateralism and consensus building ensures respect for our common good and it assures our pathway forward is beneficial for the region.

COVID-19 has of course had an enormous impact, putting pressure on health systems, and posing risks to the economic gains that have improved living standards for millions of people. I wish to express my condolences to all those who have lost loved ones to the virus.

The pandemic has brought into focus the challenges we face. In short, we have entered an era of formidable environmental, health, and geopolitical difficulties, with fewer certainties and greater risks.

We have all come to see that the Indo-Pacific has become increasingly contested, and the strategic environment more challenging.

We have seen rising nationalism, the undermining of democratic norms, and deepening inequalities. Global competition is intensifying, at a time when the need for coordinated action has never been greater.

In my culture the ‘Marae’ is a contested space where ideas, leadership, direction are often challenged and disputed. But the ‘Marae’ is also the place where the will of the collective often prevails based on the rules and norms designed to achieve the greatest beneficial outcome with stability and peace as its over-riding objective for all to benefit.

If the Indo-Pacific is our common marae, then ASEAN has a very important role to play.

ASEAN sits at the centre of the Indo-Pacific in grappling with the challenges before us. From the time that New Zealand first became an ASEAN dialogue partner in 1975, we have understood that our prosperity and stability are inextricably linked to this region’s. For almost 50 years, we have worked together to advance the cause of peace and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific, and to support and strengthen ASEAN’s central role in the regional architecture – including through our active and enduring engagement in the East Asia Summit.

Our bilateral relationship with Indonesia is also important. As comprehensive partners, and fellow democracies in the Indo-Pacific, we should look to further strengthen our cooperation as we face common challenges such as COVID-19, inclusive and sustainable economic recovery, and climate change.

And it’s for all these reasons that I’m pleased to visit Jakarta on my inaugural trip as Foreign Minister. Visiting Jakarta was a conscious decision, reflecting the importance of Indonesia and ASEAN. It also represents New Zealand’s desire to continue working with you to build an enduring partnership, and to ensure a peaceful, stable and prosperous Indo-Pacific.

Kia Hora te Marino - Navigating A Challenging World

Let me share our principles for partnership. Since taking on the role of Foreign Minister, I have spoken of how New Zealand’s independent foreign policy can benefit from drawing on the bicultural values that characterise who we are and how we relate to others. This means that New Zealand approaches our relationships with an understanding of:

  • whanaungatanga: our connectedness to each other and our natural environment;
  • manaakitanga: kindness and the reciprocity of goodwill;
  • mahi tahi and kotahitanga: working for a collective benefit; and,
  • kaitiakitanga: acting as guardians for the people and the planet.

Ultimately, these are about prioritising people and relationships – the importance of showing respect to others, the importance of working together to address shared challenges, and the importance of protecting the interests of future generations, peace, prosperity and stability.

I am conscious that many of these concepts, including respect, relationship-building, and intergenerational stewardship, are central in this region as well, and have their own cultural expressions.

These values are an intrinsic part of our foreign policy toolkit and the importance we attach to multilateralism, peaceful dispute resolution, environmental stewardship, open and transparent democracy, and universal human rights.

Expanding on these, our Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern earlier this year spoke about the value we place on principles like respect for rules, openness, inclusivity, sovereignty and transparency.

It is perhaps no surprise then, that in our values-based approach to foreign policy we would like to see these embedded in actions in the Indo-Pacific. These are principles that have served New Zealand well in the past, and which we see as fundamental for ensuring a stable, free and open, and prosperous region.

Values are critical aids for navigating challenges. And they take on greater significance at a time of geostrategic competition and uncertainty. I note that many of these principles are embedded in the ASEAN Outlook on the Indo-Pacific, which New Zealand has consistently welcomed.

Ko te Rangimarie Hei Hoa Hāere - A principled-approach to ASEAN and regional issues

New Zealand is a strong and consistent supporter of ASEAN Centrality, and ASEAN’s central role in the Indo-Pacific. We need trusted friends and partners who share our commitment to multilateralism and understand the importance of working together to address shared challenges. We need regional architecture which promotes a rules-based approach, protects human rights, emphasises open markets, and safeguards the sovereignty of all states, regardless of their size.

In line with our principled-approach, we have condemned at the highest levels the military coup in Myanmar. We continue to call for the immediate cessation of violence, the release of all those arbitrarily detained since the coup, and the return to civilian government.

We strongly support ASEAN’s efforts to restore democracy in Myanmar, and urge the Tatmadaw to take action towards the full and prompt implementation of the Five-Point Consensus, including by granting the ASEAN Special Envoy full access to all parties concerned. We have provided $18 million in assistance in the last two years in response to the humanitarian situation exacerbated by both the coup and the challenges of COVID-19.

In line with the principles of transparency, openness, and respect for international law, New Zealand joined others earlier this year in setting out our legal position on the South China Sea. We hold serious concerns over the situation in the South China Sea, including artificial island building, continued militarisation, and activities which pose risks to freedom of navigation and overflight. We call for a peaceful resolution and for international law to be upheld.

The importance we attach to kaitiakitanga is emphasised when responding to climate change, which poses a grave threat to low lying South East Asian countries, as well as to Pacific Island states. We need to work together, taking ambitious global action to reduce emissions and ensure a just transition to a low-emissions future. At the same time we must ensure that economic vulnerability and indebtedness does not become a barrier to climate resilience among those most likely to suffer the devastating impacts of global warming.

We used our hosting of APEC to focus on the issues that matter, including the importance of working together to improve access to vaccines, strengthen supply chains, and ensure an inclusive, sustainable and climate-resilient economic recovery.

Kia whakapapa Pounamu te Moana - Cooperation and Partnership

We want to ensure our relationship with ASEAN is practical, open, and respectful to support regional rules and norms. In doing so, we are focused on activities that provide intergenerational value, with special emphasis on peace, prosperity, people, and our planet.

In peace and security, for example, we are active in preventive diplomacy, working with the region to combat transnational organised crime, counter terrorism and violent extremism, and enhance cyber security. In Indonesia, for instance, we work closely with the Jakarta Centre of Law Enforcement Cooperation to provide training to officials from across the region. 

Meanwhile, in recognition of the benefits of trade and sustainable economic development, we remain firmly committed to ensuring that the ASEAN-Australia-New Zealand Free Trade Agreement remains ASEAN’s highest quality external trade agreement. The built-in capacity-building programme for that agreement has also played a key role in enhancing our economic engagement, having provided training, workshops, and seminars to over 12 000 officials in the past decade. We also continue to share best practices in areas like agriculture, paperless documentation, and animal health, to support robust economies, and foster enhanced trade and economic links. In line with this goal, we look forward to the entry into force of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership on 1 January next year.

COVID-19 has of course posed challenges to our long-standing people-to-people cooperation. But we have risen to the task, utilising online methods to deliver short term courses to officials across the region – including in topical areas such as public health management, good governance, and renewable energy. We continue to seek out opportunities to strengthen our cooperation and to support activites that provide real value, like providing further training for ASEAN officials on transnational crime and maritime issues next year, supporting the establishment of an ASEAN Trade Academy programme, and the establishment of the new ASEAN Centre for Climate Change.

We are conscious of the impact of COVID on the region, and continue to support the region’s response to the pandemic. To date we have contributed $1 million to the ASEAN COVID-19 Response Fund, as well as almost $30 million to domestic efforts across the region, including $927,000 to the Eijkman Institute for Molecular Biology, right here in Jakarta. Just recently we donated over 680,000 vaccines to Indonesia via the COVAX facility.

Kia Tere te Kārohirohi – A Respectful Relationship

In line with the values I articulated earlier, we put great stock in the nature of our friendship with ASEAN – and the idea that we are working to build a genuine partnership, together. For New Zealand, how we cooperate is just as important as what we cooperate on.

So during these challenging times, we remain committed to the values and principles that guide us. This means that when we approach our engagement with Indonesia, ASEAN, and the wider region, we aim to demonstrate our manaakitanga, by being respectful, open, transparent, consistent and constructive. 

We will continue to invest in building strong, inclusive relationships in the spirit of a genuine partnership as a reflection of our whanaungatanga principles. And we will be focused on working with you and others to uphold the rules and norms that have served us so well, whether it is UNCLOS and the WTO, or the principles embodied in the ASEAN Charter, the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation, or the ASEAN Outlook on the Indo-Pacific.

This shared approach is an expression of kotahitanga and our commitment to work together mahitahi co-operatively, to ensure an Indo-Pacific region that is stable, free and open, and prosperous.

No reira, kia tere te kārohirohi i te ara e whai aki nei tātou, kia kotahi i a tātou. Pai Mārire.

Thank you.