Speech from the launch of Advancing Pacific Partnerships

  • Hon Ron Mark

Tuhia ki te rangi                               

Tuhia ki te whenua                           

Tuhia ki te ngakau                            

O nga tangata                                  

Ko te mea nui                                    

Ko te aroha                                                 

Tihei (wa) Mauri Ora!                                                   

E nga tangata whenua                               

Tena koutou                                     

E te iwi o te Moana nui a Kiwa                           

Tena koutou                                     

Apiti hono, tatai hono                       

Ratou kua wehe atu kit e po            

Apiti hono, tatai hono                       

Tatou e tu ana ki te ao                        

Thank you Rouben for your kind introduction.

Thank you Reverend for your prayer and fellowship to open this important gathering focused on partnership, our Pacific identity, and the positive impacts we can have for Pacific peoples through our collective cooperation. 

I would like to welcome our honoured Pacific partners—official representatives from Pacific countries and Pacific organisations. 

I would also like to greet my Ministerial colleagues, Members of Parliament, Chief Executives, officials, our diplomatic and defence attaché and advisor community, and our academic community. 

Finally, I welcome the members of our New Zealand Defence Force and Ministry of Defence, who embody the essence of partnership that brings us together today. 

A famous chief and leader of my Ngati Porou tribe, Sir Apirana Ngata, once said:

He aha te mea nui o te ao

He tangata, he tangata, he tangata

What is the most important thing in the world?

It is the people, it is the people, it is the people

The spirit of that proverb runs throughout our new Defence Assessment, Advancing Pacific Partnerships, which I have the privilege to share with you today. 

New Zealand is a Pacific country through geography, culture, identity, historical and economic linkages, and valued people-to-people ties.

Our nation’s security and wellbeing are intrinsically bound to the peace and stability of the Pacific. 

Together, we face dynamic and intensifying regional security challenges, including the impacts of climate change, transnational organised crime, and increased geostrategic competition.

The year 2018 was pivotal in the evolution of approaches to Pacific security. 

At the 2018 Pacific Islands Forum, leaders endorsed the  Boe [pronounced: BOY] Declaration, which recognises an expanded concept of security, and affirms that climate change remains the single greatest threat to the livelihoods, security and wellbeing of the Pacific. 

In March last year, New Zealand’s Government also recognised an array of challenges in our region, including climate change, economic resilience, and human development, as well as a more contested strategic environment. The Government’s Pacific Reset has recognised and responded to these challenges with a lift in our strategic ambition and investment in the Pacific.

Under the Reset, Defence released the Strategic Defence Policy Statement, which elevated the priority for our Defence Force to be able to respond in the Pacific to the same level as New Zealand’s own territory.  This elevation represents a steadfast commitment by New Zealand Defence to be ready when called upon by our Pacific partners.

This Defence Assessment translates the principles of the Pacific Reset and the Policy Statement into a Defence regional approach.  It aligns us with the Boe Declaration’s expanded concept of security, and with the priorities of our diverse, individual Pacific partners.

Advancing Pacific Partnerships puts forward a vision for an inter-generational investment in a secure, stable, and resilient Pacific, achieved by advancing our partnerships and supporting existing regional security architectures.  

Partnership and people-to-people ties have long been a hallmark of our approach in the Pacific.  We focus on listening to Pacific partners, understanding partners’ priorities, and cooperating with respect and on an equal footing. 

New Zealand Defence’s aim is to be a reliable, trusted, long-term partner. 

Advancing Pacific Partnerships builds on this longstanding commitment and on our enhanced commitment to the Pacific.

Core to our concept of partnership is the assurance that our engagement will be sustainable and focused on Pacific priorities. 

Alongside our work with Pacific partners, prioritising cooperation with likeminded partners is fundamental to the Advancing Pacific Partnerships approach.  These partners can make significant contributions to Pacific security.  We can achieve more together than any of us could on our own. 

We see our refreshed approach in the Pacific as a contribution not only to our region but also to the international rules-based order.  It is just as important to promote and safeguard laws and norms, including transparency, in the Pacific as it is further afield.  Pacific regional architecture plays a vital part in this. 

Advancing Pacific Partnerships captures our commitments around partnership in a way that we have never fully articulated before. 

It grounds our approach in our values, our Pacific identity, and whole of government efforts.

Today I’m proud to share with you three major efforts demonstrating how our Advancing Pacific Partnerships approach is already being put into action in three key areas – efforts we’re undertaking:

  • firstly, to advance partnerships;
  • secondly, to invest in and support regionalism; and
  • finally, to enable our Defence organisations to deliver on this approach. 

(1) Partnership/People-to-People: Pacific Leader Development Programme Announcement

Partnership and people-to-people ties are at the heart of our approach. 

Today I’m pleased to announce for the first time the Pacific Leader Development Programme, developed in cooperation with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade.  The New Zealand Defence Force is delivering this transformational programme in partnership with our security sector counterparts in Papua New Guinea, Fiji, Tonga, and Vanuatu.

The Pacific Leader Development Programme draws on the proven expertise of the NZDF in generating engaged and professional leaders across all ranks, and it highlights our Government’s commitment to deeper and more ambitious partnerships in the Pacific Islands region.

Defence Force personnel are working with partners to design and implement bespoke, country-specific, development frameworks to enhance leadership capability. New Zealand will also support the construction of purpose-built leader training centres where desired, in accordance with each partner’s tailoring of the programme to meet their individual needs. 

This transformational initiative is delivering now.  A pilot programme has been deliviering for Papua New Guinea, which has developed the Kumul Leadership Framework in partnership with the NZDF.  Papua New Guinea will be the first country to receive a purpose-built leadership training centre to support the development and delivery of courses.

I have personally witnessed the success of NZDF-led leadership training in both New Zealand and Pacific Island countries. 

This programme is well established as a core component of training for NZDF personnel here in New Zealand, where it has also been well received by visiting Pacific Island Nations’ personnel through ongoing training partnership programmes.

The long-term goal of the Pacific Leader Development Programme is to work with each partner country to build leadership capacity. 

It will enable our partners to sustainably design, deliver, evaluate, and maintain their own leadership programmes across the security sector and other Government agencies.  The programme will also build cooperation across the Pacific, through a network of leaders to support regional security issues. 

Pacific Island country security forces play an important role in supporting regional peacekeeping and humanitarian response activities. Developing leadership capability amongst Pacific defence and police force personnel can contribute directly to these efforts. It also supports efforts under the Boe Declaration to lift security sector capacity across the Pacific.

The Pacific Leader Development Programme represents an enduring, long-term commitment that recognises each partner’s unique strengths and objectives, will enhance our mutual leadership capacities, and will deepen our valued partnerships. 


(2) Regionalism & Climate Change


Secondly, I’d like to talk about the importance we place on working regionally in the Pacific, and the work New Zealand Defence is doing on climate change and security. 


Last year, our Strategic Defence Policy Statement recognised that in an increasingly complex strategic environment in the Pacific, active engagement in support of regional security architecture will increase in importance. 

Advancing Pacific Partnerships underscores the importance of investing in Pacific regional security architecture.  Transnational challenges require regional approaches, and regionalism elevates Pacific voices. 

Ehara taku toa I te toa taki tahi


Engari he toa takitini


My strength is not that of an individual but that of a collective

We are guided by the Boe Declaration, a statement by the Pacific Islands Forum leaders that highlights the importance of collective action.  It is our compass for Defence efforts to advance regional  security.  

As I noted earlier, the Boe Declaration “reaffirms that climate change remains the single greatest threat to the livelihoods, security and wellbeing of the peoples of the Pacific.”

New Zealand Defence has been proactive and responsive to this affirmation by Pacific leaders.    

For those of us in New Zealand and in the Pacific, the many varied manifestations of climate change are affecting communities today.  Too often for our Pacific partners, the impacts on lives and livelihoods are severe. 


Last December, I released another Defence Assessment, titled The Climate Crisis: Defence readiness and responsibilities. It reinforces New Zealand’s view that climate change is one of the greatest security challenges of our time.  


Over time there will be an increased requirement for our Defence and other security forces to respond with humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, more search and rescue missions.  We have made capability investment decisions on this basis, something I will address more fully in a few moments. 

This May, at the South Pacific Defence Ministers’ Meeting, regional defence leaders unanimously supported recommendations for future work on defence, security, and climate change. 


I am proud of the strides that New Zealand Defence has made in this area, from elevating these issues in a range of international forums to advancing a South Pacific Defence Ministers’ Meeting study focused on climate change and security in the Pacific; from creating new responsibilities in our Ministry, to co-hosting, together with the US Indo-Pacific Command, the Pacific Environmental Security Forum in Wellington in May. 

This is just the beginning of our efforts on the climate crisis with more commitments on the horizon, and the Pacific has New Zealand Defence’s commitment to be your faithful and constant partner in these efforts. 


(3) Optimising Defence & the DCP

Finally, New Zealand Defence is aiming to optimise our delivery of the Advancing Pacific Partnerships approach. 

A major way we are taking our Pacific priority forward is by increasing the Defence Force’s capability and capacity to deliver operations and other activities in the Pacific. 

This is at the heart of our ability to be a reliable and responsive partner.

This requirement, this solemn obligation we have to our region, especially in the context of climate change, forms the foundation of the Force that will be delivered through the Defence Capability Plan 2019, which I announced in June. 

This capability plan comprises a range of investments critical to enhancing our ability to respond in the Pacific, including the introduction of a second, more capable sealift vessel. 

Since the Canterbury first deployed for humanitarian and disaster relief following the impact the 2009 earthquake and tsunami in Samoa, the ship has been a critical component of New Zealand Defence Force activities in the Pacific.  

In response to cyclone Pam in Vanuatu in 2015, over the course of 27 days the ship provided personnel, medical stores, construction materials, food and fresh water to local populations impacted by the cyclone.  The Canterbury was also critical to recovery efforts following Cyclone Winston in Fiji. 

The importance of a strong sealift capability is inherent in the Pacific. A second amphibious vessel will more than double our capacity and effectiveness in this area. 

The Defence Capability Plan also calls for growing the size of the New Zealand Army by 1500 people, bringing the total to 6000 by the year 2035.

Increasing the size of the Army will provide for longer sustainment of operations, and a greater ability to contribute resources across our areas of responsibility.  It is another way in which we will be better postured to deliver in partnership with Pacific countries. 

In addition, two of our Coalition Government’s recent, major capability decisions also have important bearing on our operations and activities in the Pacific.   This includes the C-130 J-30 Super Hercules and the Boeing P-8A Poseidon. 

Our current C-130H Hercules are among the most Pacific-focused capabilities of the Defence Force, crucial to transporting New Zealand Defence Force people and equipment, as well as our partners, to operations and activities around the region.

The Capability Plan provides for these aircraft to be replaced within the next five years.  Government has announced the selection of the C-130 J-30 Super Hercules as the preferred option, ensuring that this capability is maintained for decades to come. 

In addition, New Zealand will acquire four Boeing P-8A Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft to replace the ageing P-3K2 Orion fleet.  The P-8A will bring enhanced capability to the roles performed by the Orions including search and rescue, disaster response, resource protection, and environmental and marine resource monitoring in New Zealand, the Pacific, and beyond. 


This capability will be complemented by an Enhanced Maritime Awareness Capability. The Coalition Government’s Defence Capability Plan 2019 includes additional capabilities that will contribute to New Zealand’s maritime domain awareness, including Maritime Satellite Surveillance and Long Endurance Unmanned Aerial systems.  Maritime security is fundamental to New Zealand’s national security and to our contributions to Pacific security. 




In closing, our Advancing Pacific Partnerships approach is this simple -- We seek to work together with Pacific partners to meet Pacific security priorities as articulated by Pacific Leaders. 


Our commitments are backed by actions.  We are investing in people-to-people initiatives, we are focused on the security issues that matter to the Pacific, and we are enhancing our capabilities to contribute to Pacific security.


New Zealand Defence is delivering on the Government’s Pacific Reset, to ensure we support a region of peace, harmony, security, social inclusion and properity so that all Pacific people can lead, free, healthy and productive lives. 


We could not do this without our Pacific partners. Our partnership is paramount. We are navigators, brought together by values that bind our people together; whanaungatanga, manaakitanga, and kaitiakitanga—kinship, hospitality, and guardianship for the sky, the sea, and the land. This is our Blue Pacific identity across our vast “one oceanic continent”.

He iwi tahi tatou – We are one people.


For all those in this room, I want to close by humbly thanking you for your support and partnership.


He tini o ngā Iwi, engari, ko tētehi Moana nui-a-Kiwa.

We are one Pacific of many nations.  Many nations but one Pacific. 

No reira

Tena koutou

Tena koutou

Tena tatou katou

Thank you.