3 Nov 2020

New Foreign Affairs Minister Nanaia Mahuta says she can do job differently

10:09 am on 3 November 2020

New Foreign Affairs Minister Nanaia Mahuta says she'll be taking New Zealand solutions - including indigenous approaches - with her to the world stage.

Nanaia Mahuta

Minister of foreign affairs, Nanaia Mahuta. Photo: RNZ / Dom Thomas

Yesterday, Mahuta was made the first woman and wahine Māori to hold the portfolio during Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern's Cabinet refresh.

Ardern praised Mahuta's ability to build strong relationships quickly, which she said would be key on the world stage.

Mahuta told Morning Report today: "I was hugely honoured to be offered the role. It's the position that some ministers can only dream of and very few ministers obtain the opportunity.

"I think I can do [the job] in a different way. I think that we have the capacity now as a small nation to drive out different types of solutions - much of that is invested in our indigenous perspective and how we have been able to do things different domestically and take that out into the international forum."

Ardern had looked at the skill set of the whole caucus and Mahuta said she "mapped out a set of achievements and a set of aspirations and on balance she took that into account and it was offered the portfolios that I have".

Covid-19 had played a major role.

"The prime minister has been very clear in reshaping Cabinet for this time, in that we are focused on a recovery that takes all New Zealanders forward, and as we develop our relationships globally, it's very much focused on how we can do things differently and with a view in mind that we have a capacity to lead out on that difference.

"The recovery in a Covid context means we want ... the benefits to go deeper into economic development but also focus our capacity on what we can do to carve out market share in a trade context in some new areas.

"I think the prime minister's made it really clear to each and every one of us who got a new responsibility that she wants us to work collectively, that she wants us to see how we can ... drive relationships domestically as well as internationally.

In a world where we could not travel due to Covid-19, maintaining relationships and contact with other countries was important, she said.

"On the foreign affairs front, I think more and more New Zealanders want to understand on a broader level how we all benefit from deepening our foreign affair presence across the globe and how those relationships translate into real benefits back here in New Zealand."

Mahuta - who replaces New Zealand First leader Winston Peters in the foreign affairs portfolio - said she was focused on what she could achieve, not concerned about what others thought of her.

She was not the only one within Labour's Māori caucus celebrating a big promotion yesterday.

The Māori caucus was handed a range of high-profile roles.

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