Foreign Minister Winston Peters has secured $900 million in extra funding for more diplomats and international aid in the Budget, saying the extra spending is needed in a "turbulent" global environment.
The funding over four years will include $191m for an extra 50 diplomats and the reopening of New Zealand's embassy in Stockholm, Sweden.
However, the vast bulk of it, $714m, will be in aid spending targeting the Pacific, and going into the UN and World Bank. Peters said he expected more to follow.
Peters said that would be aimed at responding to climate change, contributions to the United Nations and the World Bank and helping humanitarian agencies respond to natural disasters.
National Party leader Simon Bridges has questioned whether a big boost for Peters' portfolio was the right priority, saying Labour was having to delay or abandon some of its own policy promises such as making GPs' visits $10 cheaper by July this year for the sake of its coalition partners.
"It's very hard to justify it. I don't think New Zealanders will accept significant new money for Foreign Affairs and foreign aid when you are not meeting a core promise you made to New Zealanders about cheaper GP visits for hard-working New Zealanders from 1 July."
Bridges said the boost for Foreign Affairs was clearly little more than "payback" for Peters' choosing Labour to form a Government. "This is just money for Winston Peters to keep him happy."
Peters set out the Foreign Affairs Budget "wins" to an audience of diplomats and aid organisations at Parliament last night. He quipped afterward that the diplomats would be going home to have a celebratory gin and tonic.
"New Zealand needs to rebuild expertise and resourcing to respond to an increasingly turbulent global environment."
He said the funding for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade's diplomats and embassies would help restore that service after the belt-tightening years under National, which he said had "hollowed out and weakened" the foreign service.
"New Zealanders are well aware of the international risks and that New Zealand needs a voice on the world stage. It is important that our voice is heard in the right place at the right time to protect our interests."
Peters slated the previous National Government for underfunding the ministry, saying it weakened New Zealand's voice on the world stage.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (Mfat) has just had a recruiting drive for new potential diplomats but it had advised Peters in its post-election briefing that there was a shortage of staff with experience.
The funding is aimed at helping New Zealand beef up its trade arm given international uncertainty such as the change in policy by the United States under President Donald Trump, increasing protectionism and tit-for-tat tariffs between the US and China.
New Zealand also faces implementing the Comprehensive and Progressive Trans Pacific Partnership and trade negotiations with Britain and the European Union as well as the "upgrade" of the China agreement.
The boost for aid funding is clearly aimed at ensuring New Zealand holds ground as China and other countries increase their own presence in the Pacific region – something Peters made clear when he set out his plans for a "Pacific reset" earlier in the year.
The aid funding is expected to dovetail with an expected increase for aid in the Pacific by Australia in its Budget tonight.
It will see the amount New Zealand spends on trade increase back to 0.28 per cent of gross national income from 0.23 per cent in 2011. The target set by the United Nations for developed countries is 0.7 per cent.
The extra funding will help with the cost of the $53m Dubai Expo in 2020 and for New Zealand to host Apec in 2021, commitments made under the National Government.
The pre-Budget funding announcement comes a fortnight after Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Finance Minister Grant Robertson moved to try to dampen down expectations of what the Labour coalition Government's first Budget would deliver.
They had warned that higher-than-expected cost pressures in health and education as well as other areas meant Labour had to delay some of its policy promises.
The amount spent on aid under the previous National Government increased from $537.14m in 2011 to $613.64m in 2017, about 60 per cent of which was spent in the Pacific region. But that was a drop from 0.28 to 0.23 per cent of GNI by 2017.
Under the aid strategy from 2015 – 2019, about 60 per cent of aid was to be spent in the Pacific region.