Pacific Covid-19 response high on agenda for NZ and Australia during talks

New Zealand says it's working with Australia to ensure there's support for Pacific neighbours struggling with Covid-19.

Associate Minister of Foreign Affairs Aupito William Sio said outbreaks in some Pacific island countries, such as Papua New Guinea and Fiji, are overwhelming for the authorities there.

He made the comments following a meeting with Australian Minister for International Development and the Pacific Zed Seselja and New Zealand's Minister of State for Trade and Export Growth Phil Twyford in Auckland today.

Aupito said while the priority for New Zealand's Covid-19 response efforts are with its realm countries, his government stands ready to assist other countries including PNG and Fiji.

"We co-ordinate with Australia who is well placed with the Melanesian countries PNG and Timor-Leste. But our discussions have been focussed on making sure that we're aligning that support and we'll continue to do that going forward.

"Our aim is ensure that the Pacific are not left with any unmet needs," he said

PNG has reported more than 10,000 Covid-19 cases with almost 100 deaths, while community transmission of the virus has returned to Fiji this week.

Today's get-together for the ministers follows a meeting of Foreign Ministers' Nanaia Mahuta and Marise Payne in Wellington yesterday.

Australia's Senator Zed Seselja noted his strong interest in labour mobility and said he was spearheading moves to help the Pacific's economic recovery post-Covid 19.

"When we look to the Pacific, we know that working together is critically important for the health and well-being and stability and security of our region.

"We know that there are some significant challenges ahead. We know that in parts of our region Covid is still there. It is in places like PNG and Timor-Leste," he said.

Senator Seselja, who is also Minister for International Development, said it was nice to see Aupito two days after the opening of the trans-Tasman bubble and so close to ANZAC Day.

To support Pacific exporters in the wake of Covid-19, New Zealand is focused on alleviating pain points facing the region's private sector.

Minister for Trade and Export Phil Twyford said his government aims to help businesses offset freight costs incurred due to the pandemic.

A Pacific Export Survey released recently showed freight costs were one of the top three barriers for exporters in the region.

Twyford said this was further exacerbated with Covid-19 drastically affecting shipping routes thus inflating costs.

"New Zealand's government supports aviation freight, aviation flows internationall for NZ but also to key regional hubs.

"And that's been critically important to see high value exports and imports keep moving to ensure that people can fly in and out of the region but also essential things like medical supplies," he said.

Phil Twyford also met with Senator Seselja in Auckland today.