An academic says the relationship New Zealand has with its Pacific neighbours is in danger of being changed by stealth through changes to the country's aid policy.
This follows calls from a parliamentary committee for the people of Niue, the Cook Islands and Tokelau to have access to the same services enjoyed by other New Zealand citizens.
The committee says the relationship should be harmonised with what it refers to as the Realm of New Zealand.
But professor of Development Studies at Victoria University, John Overton, says use of this term implies a much closer constitutional relationship being achieved through the aid programme.
"It does signal a much closer relationship. Now it may be a relationship and the benefits that might flow from that, might be beneficial in some circumstances. In other words it is certainly worth looking at these options but I think it needs to be looked at in detail, and critically, and it must involve Pacific Islands people as part of that conversation."