By Jo Moir, RNZ
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has described difficult conversations with Australia as being "gnarly".
Ahead of their formal bilateral at Kirribilli House, Ardern told her Australian counterpart, Scott Morrison, that their relationship was strong enough to get through those tougher talks.
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"We do have some gnarly issues to discuss, but actually we're strong enough that we can handle when it gets gnarly," she said.
"We speak frankly, probably more frankly than most international relationships... but that's the nature of who we are."
Ardern is expected to confront Morrison about Australia's hardline deportation policy today.
She said the pair talked frequently, sometimes making their officials feel redundant "by virtue of the fact you and I circumvent them constantly".
Ahead of their private meeting at Kirribilli House, Morrison and Ardern thanked each other for the way their two countries had helped in times of tragedy in the last year.
Ardern said today was a chance to have significant discussions that were a level of contact she had with no other leader.
"That's how it should be - the fact that we can pick up the phone in unfortunate situations has had a very tangible and practical effect for us,'' she said.
The response from Australia to the Whakaari/White Island eruption "spoke to the closeness of the relationship''.
On the bushfires, Ardern said she couldn't "convey the depth of feeling New Zealanders felt".
"There was a real sense of proximity, the smoke coming over, New Zealanders saw how devastating it was and they wanted to help and I think they craved the opportunity to send what they could.
"In some cases they might have sent more than you wanted," she said.
Morrison acknowledged the more than 400 New Zealanders who helped with the fires, saying it was a display of "pure Anzac spirit".
"Everywhere I went I could pick up the accent, I'd say kia ora," he said.
He mentioned it being nearly a year since the Christchurch mosque attacks and what the countries had been through since with the Whakaari/White Island eruption and now being in the midst of the Covid-19 coronavirus outbreak.