The Government is putting $70 million towards NGO work in the Pacific, which Foreign Minister Winston Peters says will strengthen New Zealand's voice on global trade and security issues.
Peters made the announcement during a speech to the Council of International Development conference in Wellington this morning.
The money is part of the $714 million over four years, announced in Budget 2018, for Pacific Reset, the Government's strategy to grow New Zealand's influence in an increasingly contested strategic area.
The $70m will help the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade to nurture partnerships between New Zealand NGOs and NGOs in the Pacific.
"This does not mean that every NGO will receive funding," Peters told the CID conference.
"Mfat will partner with NGOs that are clear about their value add and can make an impact, especially in the priority areas in the Pacific."
Peters said NGOs can sometimes reach areas more easily than governments, and the partnerships will make New Zealand's aid go further, be more efficient and help build sustainability.
"We also want to encourage you [NGOs] to collaborate. Not just with each other, but with the private sector and Crown Research Institutes, to maximise our collective New Zealand impact."
Cook Islands Deputy Prime Minister Mark Brown told the conference that development was a "risky business" as the region faced rising sea levels and sharp differences in prosperity.
New Zealand's role would become more important as the Cook Islands looks set to graduate from being an ODA (Official Development Assistance) country, meaning it will be less eligible for international aid money.
Peters said Niue was also close to no longer being an ODA country.
"We've made it clear to the Cook Islands, as we would to Niue, that we still stand ready and available to help, because these realm countries are seriously important to us."
He said New Zealand's Pacific efforts would add volume to New Zealand's voice in trade negotiations.
"When you're at the UN and when you're in at trade negotiations internationally, people do look over your shoulder and say, 'What is your record?'
"New Zealand needs a proud record because it adds to the value of our voice. [We need to] have a far more powerful voice than just the size of our country, [which means] being a seriously influential country that understands the Pacific better than any other country does."
The money from Budget 2018 boosted the money spent on aid as a percentage of Gross National Income to 0.28 per cent, down from 0.3 per cent in 2008, but up from 0.23 per cent in 2017.
The target set by the United Nations for developed countries is 0.7 per cent.
New Zealand spent 60 per cent of its development money in the Pacific, and Peters said the Government needed to do a better job of informing the public why it was good use of taxpayer money.
"If you've got frivolous comment about 'it doesn't really matter', well, it seriously does. It matters in huge ways in terms of trade, and in terms of security."