With new funding announcements and promises of action on climate change, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has well and truly begun her campaign to win over the Pacific.
Ardern started her five-day visit to the region with a meeting with Samoan counterpart Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi yesterday, promptly announcing nearly $10 million in new aid funding for employment programmes and cyclone recovery.
The formal get-together was be the first in a series across the region as the Government looks to "reset" and ramp up New Zealand's efforts with Pacific nations in the face of growing investment by other countries in the region.
After the meeting, Ardern was keen to highlight the "unique friendship" between 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.
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 in the region.
But neither he nor Ardern would say yesterday whether the week's activities were aimed at curbing China's growing investment in Pacific countries through infrastructure loans.
"The presences of other nations, outside the Pacific in this region is not new. It's fair to say that has increased over the years," Ardern told reporters.
"What we can do, as New Zealand, as members of the Pacific, is make sure we are doing our part."
Peters added New Zealand and Australia were the "most beneficial" influences in the region.
"We need to ensure our influence does not diminish," he said.
In the second prong of the Government's Samoan charm offensive, Ardern and Climate Change Minister James Shaw spent part of the day attending separate climate-change themed events; Shaw stopping by a small village losing ground to rising seas and Ardern visiting a housing-building project for cyclone-hit residents.
With Pacific nations acutely feeling the early brunt of climate change, the topic is front-and-centre in the region's politics.
In speeches at a luncheon, Ardern and Shaw emphasised New Zealand's need to get its own emissions under control as a key contribution to the region - and the role it needed to play in amplifying the concerns and advice of its smaller neighbours.
"The single most important thing we can do is bring our own greenhouse gas emissions at home down," Shaw said.
Among the lighter moments during the packed schedule, Ardern faced a somewhat awkward situation at a Christian youth organisation's welcome.
After some off-colour jokes from the attending clergyman - in front of an audience of mostly children - the pregnant prime minister was offered kava in a ceremony - for the second time since arriving.
"This isn't just my lunch, I'm carrying a baby," she joked, politely handing back the bowl.
The delegation also is calling into Niue, Tonga and the Cook Islands.
- NZ News Wire