Ardern creates nuclear disarmament role

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern speaks at the NZIIA annual conference. Photo: Sam Sachdeva.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has announced the reinstatement of a Minister for Disarmament and Arms Control, saying New Zealand's voice must be heard.

Ardern made the announcement at the first major foreign policy speech of her tenure, opening the NZ Institute of International Affairs' annual conference on Tuesday morning.

Addressing a crowd of hundreds, the Prime Minister said the pursuit of disarmament was "as vital today as it was when Norman Kirk and David Lange proclaimed New Zealand’s opposition to nuclear weapons and nuclear testing in the Pacific".

"At a time when risks to global peace and security are growing and the rules-based system is under such pressure, we must recommit ourselves to the cause of non-proliferation and disarmament, and to the norms and rules which support those endeavours."

Ardern said Foreign Affairs Minister Winston Peters would take on the role, an acknowledgement of its importance.

The portfolio would include considering the spread of nuclear, chemical and conventional weapons, while New Zealand would also consider the early ratification of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.

Ardern's wide-ranging speech also touched on trade policy, with the Prime Minister saying her experience with the CPTPP had led her to support a different framework for trade negotiations, and an emphasis on the regions, SMEs, Maori, and women.

On climate change, she said New Zealand's location in the Pacific came with "a huge duty to both act, and speak on, the threat that climate change poses to our region".

Ardern also emphasised the importance of a rules-based international framework, while saying New Zealand was a small country that needed many friends.

She also included an oblique reference to the current debate over China's rise, saying she would stand up to the country on issues of concern.

"China’s global influence has grown along with its economic weight. Its leadership on issues like climate change and trade liberalisation could add momentum to our collective efforts in those areas.

"Naturally, there are areas where we do not see eye to eye with China. My government will speak honestly and openly with our friends in Beijing. Whether it is about human rights, pursuing our trade interests, or the security and stability of our region.

"Taking that approach isn’t about singling countries out, but about taking a consistent approach on the issues and principles that matter to us."