Opinion

Lloyd Burr: 'Is China setting up shop in our backyard?'

In 2017 when Labour, the Greens, and New Zealand First became the government, they launched a policy called the Pacific Reset. 

It was driven by New Zealand First leader and new Foreign Minister Winston Peters to essentially show Pacific nations we care about them more than China does, despite its deep pockets. 

I went on the first Pacific Reset tour to Samoa, Tonga, Niue, and the Cook Islands. 

I watched as Jacinda Ardern and Winston Peters were welcomed in all these places, making announcements about funding for solar farms, and aid for hurricane-ravaged Tonga. 

In all these places though, you can see China's tentacle wrapping around each of them. 

Samoa's brand new airport was funded by China. Niue's solar farm has a 'funded by China' sign on it. Tonga's new Parliament building was funded by China too.

I spoke to locals who talked of a Chinese accommodation ship that would moor in the harbour, and all the Chinese workers would disembark every day to build these projects. 

Some of them weren't designed to cope with the Pacific weather like hurricanes and rain. 

China's strategic deal with the Solomon Islands has raised eyebrows. But it hasn't stopped there. Niue and Samoa have since signed similar agreements. 

And this will no doubt be worrying the US, Australia, and New Zealand. 

What is China's plan here? Is it just for regional dominance? Or is it about future access to fisheries? 

A lot of China's funding is low-interest loans - so what happened if they can't be paid back? Would China call in the loans and take over the islands? Would they take over the fisheries? 

Are we about to see Chinese military bases built in Samoa or Niue? 

China is a country that has concentration camps full of the Uyghur population, and a country that's stripped Hong Kong of its democracy, and one that still censors anything anti-government - they could be setting up shop in our backyard. 

What's disappointing about the latest expansion is we haven't heard from our Foreign Minister Nanaia Mahuta about it. Where is she? 

What happened to the great Pacific Reset? 

It seems like China is doing the reset, not us. 

Listen to Lloyd Burr's 'Political Breakdown' above.

You can also download the full interview on the Lloyd Burr Live podcast, and listen on the go. Check it out on the rova app or wherever you get your podcasts.