18 Apr 2023

Prime Minister Chris Hipkins' calendar marked with overseas trips

6:29 am on 18 April 2023
King Charles and Queen Consort Camilla, Anthony Albanese and Chris Hipkins.

King Charles and Queen Consort Camilla, Anthony Albanese and Chris Hipkins. Photo: RNZ / AFP

The prime minister has announced a series of upcoming overseas trips, which he said would advance New Zealand's trade and economic interests.

Chris Hipkins will travel to Brisbane for a trade mission, London for King Charles' coronation, and Vilnius, Lithuania to attend the NATO Leaders' Summit.

He has also announced a range of events and activities in New Zealand to mark the king's coronation.

Hipkins said the number of overseas engagements was "small."

"My focus is on the cost-of-living and cyclone recovery challenges New Zealand is facing. As such, I will only undertake a small number of international engagements this year.

"When overseas I will look to put trade front and centre in order to support our economic recovery."

Australian trade mission

Hipkins will fly to Brisbane this weekend to mark 40 years of the Closer Economic Relations agreement with Australia.

The historic free trade agreement, first signed in 1983 but expanded over the years, removed tariffs and quotas, reduced compliance costs for food exporters, and allowed most services to be traded across the Tasman free of restriction.

"New Zealand and Australia's economic success is inextricably linked. The Single Economic Market is a powerful engine for growth on both sides of the Tasman," Hipkins said.

While in Brisbane, it is expected Hipkins and his Australian counterpart Anthony Albanese will discuss whether any progress has been made on the rights of New Zealand citizens living in Australia.

He will be joined by a business delegation for the trip, as well as senior Māori representatives, and the Trade and Export Growth Minister Damien O'Connor.

King Charles' coronation

Next month, Hipkins will travel to London for King Charles' coronation on 6 May.

The New Zealand delegation will include Governor-General Dame Cindy Kiro, High Commissioner to the United Kingdom Phil Goff, ONZ recipient and former All Blacks captain Richie McCaw, Victoria Cross holder Willie Apiata, Kiingi Tuheitia and Makau Ariki Atawhai, and a number of other royal honours holders, iwi leaders and community representatives.

"It's important for the government and the country to be represented at our head of state's coronation," Hipkins said.

In recognition it is an election year, leader of the opposition Christopher Luxon has also been invited to attend.

Britain's King Charles III reacts as he meets with families from Afghanistan, Syria and Ukraine who have settled in Aberdeen, during a visit to Aberdeen Town House, on October 17, 2022. (Photo by Jane Barlow / POOL / AFP)

King Charles III. Photo: JANE BARLOW / AFP

Hipkins' mission to London will also have a trade aspect, and he plans to travel on 1 May to promote the Free Trade Agreement with the UK before the coronation.

NATO summit

The prime minister confirmed he had accepted an invite from NATO to attend the leaders' summit in the Lithuanian capital of Vilnius in July.

New Zealand is not a member of NATO, but was invited to attend as part of the 'Asia-Pacific 4' group with Japan, South Korea and Australia.

Reports in Australia last week indicated Anthony Albanese would not take part in the summit, but on Monday he said he would "happily" accept the invitation, subject to logistical arrangements. Albanese said he and Hipkins had texted each other about the invite.

Hipkins expects to advance the trade deal with the EU while he attends NATO.

The government is also pursuing a trade-focused trip to China later in the year.

Coronation events in New Zealand

Hipkins said a $1 million donation to Trees That Count would be New Zealand's gift to mark the coronation. The group will partner with the Department of Conservation and work with community groups to plant 100,000 native trees.

"The donation will create a living legacy to benefit all New Zealanders, provide more resilience against climate change, and aligns with King Charles's lifelong interest in environmental conservation," he said.

An identical donation was made last year to mark Queen Elizabeth II's Platinum Jubilee.

The public have been encouraged to attend tree planting events in their communities on the coronation weekend, including at a celebration in the Auckland Domain on 7 May.

"The coronation will be a time to acknowledge the immense efforts made by volunteers to improve social cohesion and build stronger, more resilient communities," Hipkins said.

A number of buildings across New Zealand will be lit up in purple overnight on 6 May, the New Zealand Defence Force will perform a gun salute in Wellington on 7 May, and NZ Post will issue commemorative stamps on 3 May.

The next royal honours list will be renamed the King's Birthday and Coronation Honours list, ahead of the holiday on 5 June.

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