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Chris Hipkins to meet Pacific leaders, India PM in PNG

Welcome to The Spinoff’s live updates for May 22, today coming to you from Port Moresby in Papua New Guinea. I’m Stewart Sowman-Lund, reach me on


Chris Hipkins to meet Pacific leaders, India PM in PNG

Welcome to The Spinoff’s live updates for May 22, today coming to you from Port Moresby in Papua New Guinea. I’m Stewart Sowman-Lund, reach me on

May 22 2023

A visit like no other for Chris Hipkins

Photo: Stewart Sowman-Lund

In Papua New Guinea: 

It was the closest thing Chris Hipkins will ever get to the royal treatment. A stop at the Gordon’s Market in Port Moresby, a project funded by New Zealand, saw hundreds if not thousands of locals turn out to catch a glimpse of the prime minister. It’s something he probably won’t see during the election campaign back home.

Escorted into the market by security, cheers and chants erupted. A local we spoke to said it was his “privilege” to see Hipkins and expressed his gratitude for the market giving him a job. “I am excited to see the prime minister of New Zealand. I feel proud. Thank you for coming to the market,” he said.

Hipkins described the visit and the market as a “real honour” for New Zealand and said the country would continue to be a “good friend to Papua New Guinea”.

(Photo: Stewart Sowman-Lund)

It could have been a concert mosh pit as Hipkins was taken inside the market to meet with vendors and purchase himself some local produce (bananas). It’s understood Hipkins is the only world leader in Port Moresby choosing to visit any local communities such as the Gordon’s Market, something one individual we spoke to said was an amazing thing to witness and what other politicians should be doing.

From here, there will be a quite a mood shift as Hipkins meets with business leaders before his face-to-face time with US secretary of state Antony Blinken.

(Photo: Stewart Sowman-Lund)

Pacific security on agenda as Hipkins meets with PNG counterpart

Chris Hipkins meets PNG’s James Marape (Photo: Stewart Sowman-Lund)

In Papua New Guinea:

The prime minister was somewhat reluctant to get into conversations on Pacific security and militarisation before he headed to Papua New Guinea last night. But he’ll struggle to avoid the issue today. The topic was early on the agenda during an early morning face-to-face meeting between Chris Hipkins and James Marape, the prime minister of Papua New Guinea.

Hipkins arrived at the Hilton Hotel via a motorcade that weaved through Port Moresby, police blocking roads and lining the streets. Sitting opposite one another, with a well-stocked breakfast buffet of fresh fruit and pastries (not sausage rolls) between them, the two prime ministers Hipkins and Marape reiterated the importance of Pacific solidarity.

“New Zealand has always been a strong presence… in the region. I’m really happy to see you in person,” said Marape. “On a personal level we want to engage with you… we look forward to working with you. We cannot compromise that relationship.”

Hipkins thanked PNG for hosting him and said the relationship between our countries was very important. “I think there is potential to make it even stronger,” he said.

Media were permitted only to cover the introductory remarks from both prime ministers. As Marape started to comment on his country’s relationship with the United States, and the issue of security in the wider Pacific region, a staff member politely asked media to vacate the room. Sadly that means I’m writing this without the comfort of air conditioning.

It’s the first meeting of what will be a busy day in Port Moresby for the PM. He’ll next catch up with Cook Islands’ leader Mark Brown, before later catching India’s Narendra Modi and the US secretary of state Antony Blinken. Last night, at a leaders’ dinner at the Hilton Hotel, Hipkins met with a number of his Pacific counterparts, including Fiji’s Sitiveni Rabuka.

Chris Hipkins meets PNG’s James Marape (Photo: Stewart Sowman-Lund)

National hopeful Hipkins brings up trade during meeting with India PM

Christopher Luxon identifies another shortcoming in the budget. Photo: Hagen Hopkins/Getty

In Papua New Guinea:

The leader of the opposition has his fingers crossed the prime minister will advance talk of a free trade deal with India during his visit to Papua New Guinea.

Chris Hipkins will meet with his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi later today for the first time. While the prime minister said it will be largely be a chance to get to know one another, given they have never met, he told media he was open to conversations about trade between our nations.

That’s something that National’s Christopher Luxon has been calling for, recently saying a free trade agreement with India would be a “priority” for him should he be the next prime minister.

Luxon told The Spinoff he welcomed Hipkins locking down face time with Modi. “We fully support the prime minister meeting with prime minister Modi and hope he underscores New Zealand’s desire to strengthen two-way trade, progressing to a free trade agreement with India,” Luxon said.

“We think there are reciprocal opportunities for our two countries in a number of areas including foreign direct investment, employment opportunities, educational exchanges, and definitely for trade.”

Trade has declined significantly since Labour took office in 2017, said Luxon, despite India’s economy growing significantly over that period. “With a population of more than 1.4 billion people, India’s economy grew by $560 billion last year and by 2030 India is expected to become the third largest economy in the world.”

Hipkins and Modi are set to meet at about 4.30pm NZT.

The Bulletin: Government announces biggest ever emissions-reduction project

A new electricity-powered furnace to be installed at NZ Steel’s Glenbrook plant will halve its coal use and eliminate 1% of the country’s total annual carbon emissions. NZ Steel will receive up to $140 million from the Government Investment in Decarbonising Industry fund (GIDI) for the furnace, with the company funding the rest. The project “reduces more emissions on its own than all the other 66 GIDI projects we have approved to date,” says energy minister Megan Woods. Installing the new furnace will also remove 800,000 tonnes of climate pollution from the air each year – “the equivalent of taking approximately 300,000 cars, or all the cars in Christchurch, off the road”.

National leader Christopher Luxon says the announcement shows “this is a government that’s got its priorities all wrong”, given that last week the budget “couldn’t find money to actually help support Kiwis going through a tough cost of living crisis. But all of a sudden they can find $140 million as a subsidy paid for by Kiwi taxpayers and give it to a large foreign, multinational, profitable company.”

Want to read The Bulletin in full? Click here to subscribe and join over 38,000 New Zealanders who start each weekday with the biggest stories in politics, business, media and culture.  

A whirlwind day in PNG: What the next 12 hours hold for PM Hipkins

(Photo by ANDREW KUTAN/AFP via Getty Images)

In Papua New Guinea:

Prime minister Chris Hipkins has a busy day ahead of him after landing in Port Moresby yesterday evening.

What was expected to be a trip dominated by his first face time with US president Joe Biden will instead be largely a friendly introductory meeting with his Pacific counterparts. He’ll first meet with PNG’s prime minister James Marape, before a bilateral with the Cook Islands’ PM Mark Brown. Later, he’ll host a roundtable with local economic and business leaders.

However, it’s not just about catching up with close friends. Hipkins has been granted important closed doors time with India’s prime minister Narendra Modi and US secretary of state Antony Blinken, who travelled to the Pacific nation in Biden’s place. Hipkins was coy when speaking to media about what exactly would be on his agenda during these meetings. “I think it will be largely an introductory meeting, it will be our first time meeting in person and an opportunity to talk about the importance of the relationship between both countries,” Hipkins said of his meeting with Modi. The absence of Biden didn’t dampen the significance of this leaders’ meeting, the prime minister said.

Asked about whether a trade deal between India and New Zealand could be on the cards, something National has been pushing for, Hipkins said it was something he was open to. “We do see it as a potential area of cooperation between both of our countries. There have been some areas where India haven’t been willing to put things on the table before that have been particularly important to New Zealand, the agricultural sector has clearly been an area where we’ve struggled to make progress.”

While Hipkins will be pushing New Zealand’s interests in the Pacific, that’s not the reason leaders have chosen to gather in PNG. All eyes will be on a defence pact being signed by PNG and the US, in response to growing concern’s over China’s influence in the Pacific. Hipkins was reluctant to be drawn into discussion on the militarisation of the Pacific when speaking to media yesterday afternoon – a position he may need to change as he meets with leaders today.

We’ll have ongoing live updates on the ground here in PNG. Alongside covering the politics meetings, I’ll be counting how many trays of sausage rolls are given to the PM by various world leaders and trying my best to stay sane in what is truly overwhelming heat.

Chris Hipkins inspects a guard of honour in Port Moresby
Chris Hipkins inspects the guard of honour upon arrival at Port Moresby International Airport (Photo by ANDREW KUTAN/AFP via Getty Images)