New Zealand will increasingly become the ears and eyes for Britain in the region as Britain's presence wanes and China's increases, respective Prime Ministers Tony Blair and Helen Clark indicated yesterday.
And the communication will be formalised in a new annual security dialogue - at present at senior official level - that the pair signed off on during bilateral talks in Auckland.
The first will be held in London later in the year and involve senior Foreign Affairs officials.
Mr Blair and his wife, Cherie, left for Indonesia last night.
While there was no powhiri on his entry to New Zealand, Mr Blair was given one by school children in Mangere shortly before leaving.
Mr Blair and Helen Clark held a press conference after their talks at which Mr Blair said it was important that Britain had "a friend in this region who can help and advise us on the regional issues that are of immense importance".
Speaking to the Herald last night, Helen Clark would not accept the label of "deputy" in the way that Australia wears it in relation to the United States.
"A friend in the region would be a reasonable description."
Referring to the security dialogue, she said New Zealand could "add value" to a relationship with a major country like Britain because it was "very well integrated into regional architecture in parts of the world where they are really not present in the same way."
From the time of setting up of Apec, New Zealand started to relate around the Pacific rim in a way that was quite different from the past.
"And with the development of the East Asia summit and the possibilities of that, New Zealanders are quite well placed to be an interpreter of events to long-time friends like the UK."
She said that with Britain focusing more on the Middle East, Europe, North American and then its development thrust in Africa, its direct interest in the Pacific had waned.
Britain has closed its High Commissions in Tonga, Vanuatu and in Kiribati - and its involvement in the Pacific is more through its European Union membership.
She said they had discussed next week's visit of Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao to the Pacific, including New Zealand, and the meetings he will hold with Pacific Island Forum countries.
Mr Blair assured that the two-year working holiday scheme for New Zealanders would be safeguarded.
"We are very familiar with Kiwis in London and parts of the UK and you're extremely welcome. You're wonderful people to have over there."
Helen Clark praised the leadership Mr Blair had given on the Doha Development round of talks of the World Trade Organisation and on climate change.
They agreed to extend a memorandum of understanding between New Zealand Trade and Enterprise and UK Trade and Investment to cover new sectors, biotechnology and creative industries.
In a statement Mr Blair said eligible companies would be able to access the full range of UKTI support services when setting up in Britain.
On Iraq Mr Blair said it was important to support that government's efforts in trying to become a democracy.By Audrey Young Email Audrey