4 Feb 2021

Minister of Foreign Affairs vows to bring indigenous issues to forefront

8:36 pm on 4 February 2021

Nanaia Mahuta has delivered her first major speech as minister of foreign affairs, promising to lead a different approach and promote indigenous challenges globally.

Minister of Foreign Affairs Nanaia Mahuta speaking to media on the grounds of Te Whare Rūnanga on 4 February, 2021.

Minister of Foreign Affairs Nanaia Mahuta speaking to media on the grounds of Te Whare Rūnanga on 4 February, 2021. Photo: RNZ / Samuel Rillstone

Mahuta gave the address to an audience of diplomatic corps while in Northland for Waitangi celebrations.

Mahuta reflected on being the first indigenous woman to hold the portfolio, as well as the global challenges that climate change and Covid-19 present.

Speaking about the Treaty of Waitangi, she said the principles set out in the document provide the foundation for how New Zealand could conduct its international relations.

"Our Treaty experience has taught lessons about managing and creating enduring relationships. Embracing differing world views can assist to address the complex issues of social exclusion, civil and racial unrest, inequity, and poverty," she said.

"The pathway to finding solutions in the international domain can be rocky, just as reconciliation here has had its challenges, twists and turns."

It had been difficult to bring indigenous relationships to the fore of foreign policy, but it was time for that to change, Mahuta said.

"This will see economic, social, environmental and cultural benefits to countries willing to step up to this opportunity," she said.

"We must be deliberate on this front otherwise civil unrest, poverty and social deprivation are likely to emerge."

New Zealand will "nurture our relationships with like-minded partners" and work with smaller countries to "form strategic positions on issues that define the type of global community we want to see," Mahuta told the crowd.

Mahuta described Australia is an "indispensable partner", while the Pacific impacted New Zealand's security, prosperity and strategic environment.

She also outlined the importance of New Zealand's relationships with countries like China, the United States, and the United Kingdom.

Mahuta said she was "personally keen" to develop New Zealand's relationships across Africa.

"I believe there is great scope for mutually beneficial partnerships centred on political, trade and economic interests," she said.

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