Foreign Affairs Minister Murray McCully has emphasised New Zealand's security and development role in the Pacific in a speech to the United Nations, while pointing out the country's ongoing participation in international peacekeeping.

Addressing the UN General Assembly, Mr McCully also said New Zealand strongly supported the reform of UN peacekeeping, in which the country has played a role since the 1940s.

In a dramatic expansion of peacekeeping since 1990, the UN was deploying an unprecedented number of missions to complex environments, prompting a discussion about the way those operations are being conducted.

"Clear and achieveable mandates are needed, progress needs to be better monitored, and efficiency needs to be improved," Mr McCully said.

However, there was no question about the importance of the UN in countering terrorism, and maintaining peace and security. New Zealand is seeking a seat on the Security Council for the 2015-16 term as part of its commitment to collective action, he said.

Of particular importance to New Zealand was the security and development of the South Pacific, where the country was increasingly deploying resources.

"This is where they are most needed, and where they can be most effective," he said.

"The development challenges in the Pacific are extremely complex, with vulnerable economies and challenging environmental circumstances."

It was of concern that the South Pacific was second only to sub-Saharan Africa in its lack of progress towards achieving some of the UN's Millennium Development Goals, eight anti-poverty goals with a 2015 target date.

"We want to see the (goals) achieved, and we want to see the wider Pacific prosper, through good governance and sustainable economic development," Mr McCully said.

New Zealand also hoped to share lessons learnt from the recent destructive Canterbury earthquake with the international community.

Mr McCully delivered the speech at 9.30pm in New York on Friday (1.30pm Saturday, NZT).