The New Zealand government says it wants to work with existing partnerships and groups when it comes to the question of security for its Pacific partners, but is also keen to make use of new geopolitical groupings to enhance the region’s security needs.

Its deputy prime minister and minister for foreign affairs Winston Peters said this when addressing Defence leaders at the PNG Defence Force headquarters at Murray Barracks in Port Moresby Monday.

Peters, who is leading a delegation on a five-nation tour of the Pacific, said his government recognises institutions such as the Pacific Islands Forum and others, and choses to work through such establishments so all partners benefit from any regional security arrangement.

“When speaking about New Zealand’s Pacific engagement, we also want to underscore that this coalition government is focused on working through regional architecture – notably the Pacific Islands Forum – to bolster development and security cooperation across the Pacific,” Peters said.

“These mechanisms play an important convening role – bringing the region together on an equal footing, so that we can discuss shared interests, resolve trans-boundary challenges, and chart a way forward on issues that have a bearing on our collective security and prosperity.

“At a time when we see increasing competition between larger powers, regionalism is especially important for smaller and medium sized countries such as New Zealand and PNG. Notably, organisations such as the PIF play a critical role in amplifying the Pacific’s voice on the global stage.

“But they also provide a platform for Pacific countries to collectively articulate our values and principles, enhancing the power of the region when it comes to engagement with third countries. In effect, our regional architecture helps to safeguard the sovereignty of all states, regardless of their size.

“Being a strong advocate of the Pacific Islands Forum should not and does not come at the expense of bilateral engagement. Instead, a strong and united PIF can complement individual bilateral relationships, helping ensure Pacific interests are not lost amidst the wider focus on the Indo-Pacific.

“And while we welcome new architecture like AUKUS or the Quad – those new constructs should not come at the expense of what already exists.” New Zealand is currently involved in discussions with AUKUS partners over the potential opportunities that might exist under AUKUS Pillar 2, a technology sharing mechanism.

New Zealand has a long-running defence partnership with the PNG Defence Force, and its defence personnel stationed in PNG are some of the most visible, along with those from Australia.

Just last month, a senior New Zealand Defence Force officer was appointed on secondment as the deputy chief of staff to the Chief of PNG Defence Force, an appointment that PNG’s foreign minister Justin Tkatchenko says reflects what is already a strong defence relationship between both countries.