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Suggestions New Zealand’s attitude towards China has caused ruptures in its relationship with Australia were quashed yesterday, as Jacinda Ardern and Scott Morrison worked overtime to highlight the family ties between the two countries.
The New Zealand and Australian prime ministers got down to business on the second and final day of their visit to Queenstown.
The focus was on the annual formal talks between the leaders.
There was plenty to talk about.
During the two-hour meeting, the first face-to-face summit between the pair since February 2020 when Covid-19 closed borders, topics ranged from Covid-19 and China to deportees from Australia.
Speaking to media later, both Ms Ardern and Mr Morrison disputed any differences between their respective approaches to China’s trade and human rights issues.
Australian media reports had suggested New Zealand had gone "soft" on China, and its stance was causing issues across the Tasman.
Mr Morrison said there were some who sought to undermine Australia and New Zealand's security by seeking to create points of difference, which were not there.
"As great partners, friends, allies and deep family, there will be those far from here who would seek to divide us, and they will not succeed," Mr Morrison said.
He declined to say if he was referring to China.
Ms Ardern also rejected the suggestion that New Zealand was not taking a strong stance on "these incredibly important issues".
The pair released a joint statement which included an announcement about changes to the pathway for New Zealanders living in Australia to get Australian citizenship.
From July 1, New Zealanders will be able to apply for skilled independent permanent residence in Australia after reaching the minimum income threshold for three years instead of four.
The leaders repeatedly emphasised the close links between Australia and New Zealand, often referring to family.
Some tension had been predicted over the issue of deportations to New Zealand, but it largely failed to eventuate.
Ms Ardern said Mr Morrison was clear on her view of the issue, which she believed meant "Australian criminals" with few links to New Zealand were being sent here.
Outside of the formalities, the leaders found time for a more poignant occasion.
Along with their respective partners, they attended a short ceremony at Arrowtown’s war memorial, where they laid wreaths.
Arrowtown Primary School's choir performed the national anthems of Australia and New Zealand.
Queenstown Lakes Mayor Jim Boult also attended the service, and said the visit had been a success.
"It’s just a real shot in the arm for us," he said.
"This will put us on a lot of television sets in Australia, and hopefully convince a lot of Australians to come to this part of the world."
Ms Ardern and Mr Morrison also exchanged football jerseys at the start of their media conference in recognition of the successful bid for New Zealand and Australia to co-host the 2023 Fifa Women's World Cup.
While the leaders engaged in political talks, Ms Ardern’s partner Clarke Gayford and Mr Morrison’s wife, Jenny Morrison, had their own schedule.
They visited Remarkables Primary School yesterday, where they were welcomed with a powhiri and visited a food technology class.
Mrs Morrison was given a lolly bouquet and Mr Gayford a chocolate fish.
Mr Gayford also scored some pointers from the young cooks on how to perfectly ice a cake, after asking for some tips for daughter Neve’s birthday.
The Australian delegation left Queenstown late yesterday afternoon on a Royal Australian Air Force plane.