In this April 8, 2019, photo, a Chinese flag flies outside the Chinese Embassy in Nuku'alofa, Tonga. China is pouring billions of dollars in aid and low-interest loans into the South Pacific, and even in the far-flung kingdom of Tonga there are signs that a battle for power and influence among much larger nations is heating up and could exact a toll. (AP Photo/Mark Baker)

APIA, 29 JULY 2019 (NEWSHUB) — New Zealand Prime Minister is playing down China’s big spending in the Pacific – despite the Government labeling the superpower a threat when it announced the Defence Policy Statement last year.

Jacinda Ardern has been in Samoa, en route to Tokelau, and visited some of New Zealand’s humble aid projects which have been dwarfed by China’s flashy spending.

The manumea pigeon, Samoa’s national bird, is under threat from illegal hunting. There are only 70 to 200 left, and New Zealand aid is helping to protect the endangered species.

“That’s the same status as our Kākāpō, so it is something we’re experiencing,” Ardern says. “We can share some of our learnings with each other as you seek to ensure the manumea has a bright future.”

Kiwi aid also helped the development of a waterfront pathway in Apia. However, New Zealand has some seriously steep competition from China.

The superpower has been splashing cash on aid all over the Pacific, which is part of the reason why New Zealand called China a threat last year.

It caused a diplomatic stoush as China demanded New Zealand correct the claim.

The Prime Minister’s planned trip to Beijing was delayed for months.

“I think it’s important that New Zealand, while it continues to maintain an independent foreign policy, keeps reminding China that it will not compromise its own interests or values in the Pacific or anywhere else – simply to reach some sort of economic accommodation with China,” Otago University International Relations professor Robert Patman told Newshub.

New Zealand will give approximately $20 million (US$13.2 million) a year in development funding to Samoa until 2021. The funding is significant, but nowhere near as flashy as China’s spending.

China is helping Samoa to fund major infrastructure projects, such as a new airport. To help Samoa host the Pacific Games, China’s aid paid for a new gymnasium, facility renovations, 87 vehicles, sports equipment and fireworks.

The Prime Minister says New Zealand’s aid to Samoa needs to exist on its own terms, rather than comparing New Zealand aid projects to those facilitated by China or the United States. But no Government is an island.

New Zealand is threatened by China’s growing influence in the Pacific – that is what prompted our Pacific reset. (PACNEWS)