Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says New Zealand needs to be vigilant about undue influence by any state, but declined to comment on China following a call for an investigation into the influence of the Chinese Communist Party on New Zealand domestic affairs.
Yesterday University of Canterbury professor Anne-Marie Brady urged the Security and Intelligence Service to investigate China's local activities.
"It is time to face up to some of the political differences and challenges in the New Zealand-China relationship, including the impact on our democracy of Chinese political interference," Brady said.
Australia's department of Prime Minister and Cabinet and ASIO - its equivalent of our SIS - have both investigated and pushed back publicly at the growing influence of China on domestic politics.
Brady said China's "covert, corrupting and coercive political influence activities in New Zealand are now at a critical level", and had also co-opted New Zealand's ethnic Chinese community, threatening local citizens' rights to free speech, association and religion.
Speaking to media from the East Asia Summit in Manila, Ardern would not be drawn on the call for an SIS investigation.
"I think we should be wary of political influence regardless of what country it may particularly come from. The best thing we can do to guard against that is to have strong institutions, mindful politicians, and of course be aware of the possibility of that happening from any corner.
"I'm not willing to single out any particular nation in having that conversation."
She said the relationship with China was "strong", but she would remain vigilant "in any international relationship that I maintain".
"But New Zealand's interest will always be my primary focus."
Last night in Manila, Ardern met Chinese Premier Li Keqiang and discussed mainly economic issues, including updating the free trade agreement and maintaining New Zealand access to China's dairy market.
She said he invited her to visit China and she hoped to do so "in the near future".
Andrew Little, the Minister Responsible for the SIS, said he was not aware of any undue Chinese influence.
"I don't see evidence of undue influence in New Zealand, whether it's New Zealand politics, or New Zealand communities generally.
"We have a growing Chinese community. We have a strongly developing trade relationship and diplomatic relationship with China. I don't think those things, on their own, connote undue influence.
"If there's other things she says constitutes undue influence, we'd have to know what that is."
Asked about political donations that might be made to further Chinese interests, Little said that could be looked at by the justice and electoral committee.
"We are, in principle, always in favour of the utmost transparency and openness with our donations regime and other aspects of our electoral law.
"When we come to do the standard post-election review of the last election, as the justice and electoral committee will do, that's an issue that might be raised there. Certainly members of the public are free to raise it."