Kiwi Culture Explained 4 - The link between New Zealand and the Pacific Islands explained for International Students

Thursday, October 10, 2019

As it is Fijian Language Week this week (and Niuean Language Week next week), this blog has been created to explain the shared bonds and links that Aotearoa, New Zealand, has with the Pacific Islands close to us.


A small 261.5 km2  island 2,400km northeast of New Zealand, Niue is one of the world’s largest coral islands. It has one of the smallest populations in the world, with around just 1,500 people living there. Its capital is Alofi. New Zealand and Niue share a constitutional link, people from Niue are considered citizens of New Zealand. New Zealand also manages Niue’s defence and foreign affairs, even though Niue is a self-ruling nation.

Tokelau is a dependant territory of New Zealand, so used the NZ flag until 2008, however in 2009 the Tokelau flag was approved by the Queen and was officially launched in October 2009. It has a population of around 1,500 and is made-up of a remote group of atolls, usually accessed by boat from Samoa. It’s a trip that takes between 24 and 32 hours.

Fiji is a South Pacific archipelago of more than 300 islands. Its capital city is Suva and it has a population of around 900,000 people. New Zealand and Fiji have a complicated history especially during the 2006 military coup and the years following it. New Zealand resumed bilateral engagement with Fiji in 2014. In 2019, New Zealand and Fiji committed to strengthening their relationship.

Samoa is a country with a population of around 200,000 that consists of two main islands (Savai’I and Upolu) and four smaller islands. Its capital is Apia. New Zealand has a long history with Samoa – including a period of occupation from 1914 to 1919 when New Zealand seized German Samoa. On the 1st of January 1962, Samoa became the first Pacific Island country to achieve independence from New Zealand. In 1962 the Treaty of Independence was signed between the two nations. Today, both nations are part of the Commonwealth of Nations and the Pacific Islands Forum.

There are 170 islands that constitute the country of Tonga and it is the only Pacific country with a constitutional monarchy. In 2020 Tonga and New Zealand will celebrate 50 years of diplomatic relations.




The fourth-smallest nation in the world (with nine islands and a total population of just 11,000), Tuvalu and New Zealand have a close bond. Recently the Tuvalu Prime Minister Enele Sopoaga and New Zealand’s foreign minister Winston Peters signed the 'Tuvalu Statement of Partnership'. This agreement agreed to prioritise co-operation between the two nations around climate change, workforce development and security. As Tuvalu has an average elevation of 1.83m above sea level, climate change poses a big threat to the land. Migration to countries such as New Zealand could be required in the future.

Cook Islands
A self-governing country in free association with New Zealand, it comprises 15 islands. Its largest island and main population area is the island of Rarotonga (where there is an international airport). Like Niuean’s, Cook Islander’s are citizens of New Zealand, but they also have Cook Island national status. There is a large population of Cook Islanders who live in New Zealand.

New Caledonia
New Caledonia has a population of over 250,000 people and its capital (and largest) city is Noumea. As a French colony, New Caledonia used to only use the tri-colour flag of France. However, in 2010 the Congress of New Caledonia voted to fly the flag of the Kanak indigenous people of New Caledonia as well. This is known as the FLNKS flag.

Vanuatu is a Pacific Island nation with a population of over 250,000 and made-up of over 80 islands. Its capital is Port Vila, a harbourside city and the economic centre of the nation. A short three-hour flight from NZ, Vanuatu receives foreign aid from Australia and New Zealand and in a 2006 study the BBC listed Vanuatu as the ‘happiest nation on earth’.



Solomon Islands
Comprised of six major islands and around 900 smaller islands, the Solomon Islands is located between Vanuatu and Papua New Guinea. It is home to over 600,000 people. Early in 2019 New Zealand Foreign Affairs Minister Winston Peters met with Solomon Islands Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare to sign a Statement of Partnership with the Solomon Islands. The capital city is Honiara.



Papua New Guinea
With 600 small islands, 800 indigenous languages and over 8.8 million people, ‘PNG’ is the world's third largest island country with 462,840 km2 (New Zealand is the sixth largest). New Zealand’s private sector is engaged in PNG across a wide range of industries including; communications, construction, aviation, engineering, energy and education.


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