Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern appears to have affirmed New Zealand support for Indonesia’s rule over West Papua.

That rule is controversial with several South Pacific countries and the Greens in New Zealand opposing it.

The President is on an official two-day visit to New Zealand.

The last time an Indonesian President had come to New Zealand was Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono in 2005.

Speaking to her press conference yesterday she emphasised the importance of the economic relationship with Indonesia.

“Indonesia is an incredibly important potential economic partner for New Zealand,” she said.

“It represents the biggest economy and population in ASEAN.”

She said currently bilateral trade sat at about $1.4 billion and the goal was to lift it to $4 billion by 2024.

“I will however at this meeting, as previous Governments have done, raise critical human rights issues as well.


“They include issues of freedom of speech and access of foreign media in the Papua region.”

But that was obviously as far as she went.

Several Melanesian countries who are part of the Melanesian Spearhead Group — but not Fiji or Papua New Guinea – have been trying to have the United Liberation Movement for West Papua become a member of the group which would amount to a defacto recognition of the ULMWP as the legitimate Government of West Papua.

The West Papua independence movement has a long history and has always been supported by Vanuatu.

In New Zealand the Greens support independence.

The issue has also been taken up by various churches and is the subject of a keynote address at the forthcoming Federation of Catholic Bishops Conference of Oceania who  will meet in Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea (PNG) in April.

The Federation is made up of Bishops from Australia, PNG and Solomon Islands, New Zealand and other Pacific nations.

The Pope is sending his Secretary of State, Cardinal Pietro Parolin.

Widodo had a full round of engagements in Wellington including the meeting with Bridges.

A media pool report said: “Through a translator, Mr Widodo said he hoped relations would grow further “based on mutual trust and benefit”.

“And also allow me to applaud New Zealand’s support of Indonesia’s territorial integrity,” Mr Widodo said.

That last comment was a reference to the West Papua situation and would seem to indicate that Ardern had affirmed Indonesia’s sovereignty over the territory.