NZ Foreign Minister and Pacific Peoples Minister land in Tonga for first leg of Pacific Mission

Winston Peters and Dr Shane Reti greeted by Tongan officials in Nuku'alofa. 6 February 2024 Photo: RNZ Pacific / Eleisha Foon

New Zealand’s Foreign Minister Winston Peters and the Minister for Health and Pacific Peoples Dr Shane Reti are visiting Tonga, Cook Islands and Samoa this week.

This is Peters’ second trip to the region after he visited Fiji in December where he met with Prime Minister Sitiveni Rabuka and Pacific Islands Forum Secretary-General Henry Puna.

They touched down in Tonga on Tuesday night for the first leg of the Pacific Mission and were greeted by Tongan officials and the New Zealand High Commissioner to Tonga, Matthew Howell.

The ministers are being hosted against the backdrop of Tonga’s Prime Minister Hu’akavameiliku Siaosi Sovaleni being stripped of his role of Defence Minister and Foreign Minster Fekita ‘Utoikamanu stripped of her role as Foreign Minister by Tonga’s King Tupou VI just days before the visit.

Winston Peters and Tonga's Acting PM  Samiuela Vaipulu. 7 February 2024

Winston Peters and Tonga’s Acting PM Samiuela Vaipulu. 7 February 2024 Photo: RNZ Pacific / Eleisha Foon

But the country’s Attorney-General Linda Folaumoetu’i said on Tuesday that the decision made by the King was “unconstitutional”.

Peters and Reti and will meet with Tonga’s Acting Prime Minister Samiuela Vaipulu and ‘Utoikamanu and will discuss a range of issues for thier hour-long meeting and also a visit to a new pharmacy building in Nuku’alofa.

Minister Dr Reti will also meet with health officials in each country to discuss New Zealand’s role in delivering on long-term health goals.

They will depart for Rarotonga on Thursday to meet Cook Islands Prime Minister Mark Brown.

The mission will conclude in Samoa where they will meet with Prime Minister Fiamē Naomi Mataʻafa.