New Zealand Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters is taking a leaf from Penny Wong’s book, looking to visit all Pacific Islands Forum members within the government’s first year.

Alongside the shared travel goal, there are signs New Zealand and Australia are working hand-in-glove in the region.

Peters, the veteran statesman in his third stint as foreign minister, takes off on Monday on his latest mission to the blue continent, visiting Solomon Islands, Nauru and Niue.

The 79-year-old told AAP he aims to be on the ground in every PIF member this year to lay diplomatic foundations.

“We want to make a reconnection and play our role in the Pacific, an influential and supportive role,” he said.

“We are going to be doing as many countries – and hopefully all of them in the Pacific Islands Forum this year – so that next year can be policy-building and support for the blue continent and their needs.”

This mission will mean Peters has visited 11 of the 17 other PIF members already in a busy start as New Zealand’s top diplomat that belies his age.

Senator Wong completed her Pacific tour within a year of taking office following the May 2022 election when reports of a security pact between Solomon Islands and China made Australia’s footprint in the Pacific a major campaign issue.

Senator Wong argues the coalition government dropped the ball on Pacific relationships, telling the ABC last week that indifference meant Australia was now “in a state of permanent contest in the Pacific”.

Peters agreed with her assessment without labelling blame.

“There always is a state of permanent contest … if you leave vacuums they will be filled,” he said.

Peters also offered a broadside to his preceding government, accusing it of foreign policy “inertia” under Nanaia Mahuta, who wasn’t able to travel as easily owing to the pandemic.

“I don’t blame the previous foreign minister because she didn’t want the job in the first place and you should always get somebody for a job that’s enthusiastic to take the job up and understands the commitment,” he said.

In a microcosm of the strategic environment, Peters’ visit to Solomon Islands is wedged between Prime Minister Jeremiah Manele’s first trip abroad as leader, to Australia, and his second, to China, later this month.

While in Honiara, the Kiwi leader is likely to receive the same request that Manele made of Anthony Albanese in Canberra last week: help with growing police, seasonal labour schemes, and infrastructure.

“These are conversations we’re certainly going to have and I believe the answer is ‘yes’ but I should wait until we’ve done an evaluation,” Peters said.

“Seasonal workers are critically required in New Zealand.

“It’s got great value for New Zealand, but also a huge value for the island nations … in terms of the remittances back to help their economy.”

As aligned foreign ministers, Peters and Senator Wong make an unlikely duo.

Domestically, r Peters is a combustible firebrand leader of minority party NZ First, which rails against vaccine mandates, trans rights, the media and the adoption of Maori practices into law.

Senator Wong, 24 years his junior, is a measured communicator who champions LGBTQ causes and is well-respected across the political divide.

Peters said there was “no doubt” Australia’s renewed Pacific interest assisted New Zealand’s efforts.

“I do salute Penny Wong,” he said.

“She got on the plane … she’d hardly got the job and she was on the road – realising how urgent it was – and that’s very helpful.”

This week, Peters will be joined by cabinet colleague Casey Costello, as well as National, Labour and Greens MPs in a cross-parliamentary delegation.