New Zealand increasing presence in Tonga with new resident defence adviser role

Defence Minister Ron Mark announced today New Zealand is establishing a resident defence adviser in Tonga.

Defence Minister Ron Mark. Source: 1 NEWS

Mr Mark said New Zealand’s “security and wellbeing” was “intrinsically bound to the peace and stability of the Pacific”.

He said establishing the role in Tonga would help with the coordination of operational activities supporting Tonga, such as its Cyclone Harold response in May. The NZDF also delivered aid and disaster relief supplies in 2018 in response to Tropical Cyclone Gita.

“Together, we face dynamic and intensifying regional security challenges, including the impacts of climate change, transnational organised crime and resource competition,” he said.

“New Zealand has a longstanding defence relationship with Tonga, dating back to World War I, when Tongan citizens served in the Māori and Regular Battalions in the New Zealand Army.”

Mr Mark said the move was part of New Zealand’s Pacific Reset, announced in March 2018. 

 “The Reset represents a commitment to building deeper partnerships with Pacific Island countries and other key partners and institutions in the region,” he said.

“If we are to deliver on that commitment, our people need to be present in the region, to better understand our partners’ priorities,”

New Zealand signed a Statement of Partnership with Tonga last year which set out joint priorities for cooperation to 2023. 

New Zealand also has defence advisers resident in Fiji and Papua New Guinea.

The resident defence adviser role is set to commence later this year. Tonga was formerly supported by an adviser based in Suva.