6 Mar 2018

PM's Pacific Island trip becomes a family reunion

6:01 pm on 6 March 2018

Jacinda Ardern, the "daughter of Niue" has reunited with her parents, sister and niece while being welcomed to Niue as Prime Minister for the first time.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is greeted by her father Ross Ardern, the High Commissioner.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is greeted by her father Ross Ardern, the High Commissioner. Photo: Pool photo / Michael Craig / New Zealand Herald

She's been given that moniker by Niueans because she's visited so many times and her parents live there. Ms Ardern arrived in Niue as part of her week-long trip around the Pacific Islands today.

It not usual diplomatic protocol for the Prime Minister to receive a big hug from their High Commissioner when they touch down in a country, but then again, they're not normally related.

Her father, Ross Ardern, is New Zealand's High Commissioner in the country and served as Police Commissioner since 2003.

"It's an extra special occasion to have her here as Prime Minister and to have all of our family together on this beautiful island as well," Mr Ardern said.

The Prime Minister's trip to the island became a family reunion with Ms Ardern uniting with her parents and sister for the first time in four years.

During her traditional welcome, Ms Ardern was asked the purpose of her trip here.

"I replied - at least I believed I replied in Niuean - that I come in peace. If I could've added 'I also come in joy', I would've," she said.

Jacinda Ardern inspects a police Guard of Honour during her visit to Niue.

Jacinda Ardern inspects a police Guard of Honour during her visit to Niue. Photo: Pool photo / Michael Craig / New Zealand Herald

Ms Ardern said it was extra special to come to Niue for the first time as Prime Minister.'

One student asked her what three things she would take to a desert island.

Ms Ardern replied, "Is it a really lovely island like Niue? Because if it is ... I would wish that planes would never come, that my cellphone would never work again - and a lifetime supply of that really lovely coconut bread you can get down at the petrol station."

She met with Niue Premier Toke Talagi today and announced millions of dollars in funding for roading and water infrastructure and renewable energy projects in Niue.

New Zealand is Niue's largest funder, providing aid of nearly $14 million in the 2016-17 year.

"Niue's remoteness and susceptibility to extreme weather make high quality and resilient infrastructure very important for visitors and the local population of Niue," Ms Ardern said.

Ms Ardern said New Zealand will invest $750,000 so immediate improvements can be made to Niue's roads and water networks ahead of this year's tourism season.

The government will also provide a further $5 million for a solar energy programme.

"This builds on the $5 million we have already provided and will help Niue meet its renewable energy target of 80 percent by 2025," the Prime Minister said.

Yesterday, Ms Ardern pledged almost $10 million in aid and support for Samoa.

Premier Talagi said New Zealand had given about $50 million over the past eight years, but he would like to see Niue start to rely less on that money.

"Aid is substituted now for investment. I think that's extremely important for us as it gives us a slightly different view," he said.

Niue had done very well out of tourism because of that investment, he said.

"In the future, I expect us to generate sufficient money so we can look after ourselves as much as we can".

He said he knew some people were skeptical, but he only cared about doing "what we say we're going to do" to make Niue a prosperous place.

NZ Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is welcomed to Niue with a Takalo, a traditional Niue war dance.

NZ Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is welcomed to Niue with a Takalo, a traditional Niue war dance. Photo: Pool photo / Michael Craig / New Zealand Herald

Ms Ardern also signalled there may be changes to the pension rules to try and encourage people to stay and live in Niue.

Because Niueans are New Zealand citizens, the vast majority emigrate to work and study.

Roughly 24,000 Niuans live in New Zealand, with only 1500 living in the single island nation.

Ms Ardern's family reunion will be short lived - she's only spending a day on Niue before flying out to Tonga tonight.

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