Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has kicked off government's charm offensive in the Pacific with a series of aid announcements in Samoa.

At her first official meeting with Samoan counterpart Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi, Ardern today announced $9.5 million in additional aid for the cyclone-hit country.

The formal get-together is the first in a series across the region as the government looks to "reset" and ramp up New Zealand's relations with Pacific nations in the face of growing Chinese investment.

Jacinda Ardern announced $9.5 million in additional aid for Samoa. Photo / Michael Craig
Jacinda Ardern announced $9.5 million in additional aid for Samoa. Photo / Michael Craig

In her comments after the meeting, Ardern highlighted the "unique friendship" between the New Zealand and Samoa.


"That's why it was so important for us, so early on as a new government, to travel to Samoa," she said.

While joking she was sometimes called a "daughter of Niue" - due to her father's diplomatic role in the tiny island nation - Ardern said someone could be the "daughter of many places".

As part of today's announcement, Samoan women and youth will receive access to a $6.5m fund aimed at boosting employment and growing the country's private sector.

"Supporting the development of a vibrant and inclusive private sector in the Pacific is one way we can help our neighbours address youth unemployment, and ensuring women have the opportunity to set up businesses," Ardern said.

Samoa will also receive $3m to help with recovery following Cyclone Gita, which caused widespread damaged to the island nation.

"There is much work to do to recover from this and build resilience to these storms so the people of Samoa can ready themselves for these events as much as possible in the future," she said.

In a speech last week, Foreign Minister Winston Peters said nations with deeper pockets investing in the Pacific meant New Zealand needed to do more to maintain its relevance. He's hinted at increasing the aid budget and a "reset" of New Zealand's strategy towards the region.

Asked whether he was concerned about China's influence on Samoa today, Tuilaepa told reporters there was nothing untoward about the $2 billion in loans China had committed to the region and that other powers - including India, Japan and the United States - were also putting up money.


"We are only interested in what was promised to us," he said.

Tuilaepa declined to comment on the amount of debt the country owed China for various infrastructure project loans, but said the investment was fuelling growth.

Ardern and her delegation will attend several more events, including a reception and a climate change lunch on Monday, before departing for Niue, Tonga and the Cook Islands. Earlier in the day, she inspected a Samoan guard of honour.