Prime Minister Scott Morrison has shared a traditional Maori Hongi greeting with New Zealand counterpart Jacinda Ardern to begin their meeting in picturesque Queenstown.
Mr Morrison touched down in the famous ski town of Queenstown on Sunday afternoon to hold talks with Ms Ardern and the two kicked things off by pressing noses.
The traditional greeting has an important role in Maori mythology and signifies the sharing of life force.
It is said the god Tāne-nui-a-Rangi moulded the shape of the first woman, Hine-ahu-one, from earth and breathed life into her by pressing his nose against hers.
The moment between Ms Ardern and Mr Morrison is politically significant as it is believed to be the first meeting of world leaders without masks in a nation devoid of COVID-19 since the pandemic began.
Rising tensions with China and the severe economic impact of the pandemic in the Pacific are expected to be the focus of the meeting.
It is only Mr Morrison’s second time leaving Australia in more than a year.
He will attend a business function in Queenstown on Sunday before holding a private diner with Ms Ardern and both leaders’ partners.
There will be more formal talks on Monday between the two.
Also in Queenstown were rugby league and union star Sonny Bill Williams and former Socceroo Craig Foster, who attended an Amnesty International event at the Queenstown Events Centre.
The pair took to social media to urge Mr Morrison to take up New Zealand‘s long standing offer to resettle 150 refugees held in Australian-run offshore detention centres.
“We’ve got 150 empty chairs behind us that symbolise innocent refugees offshore, in Nauru and Manus Island,” the former soccer commentator said.
“There’s still around 240 people stranded there after eight years … that’s the amount of time Australian government has consistently refused to accept New Zealand’s generous offer to resettle refugees.
“We need to get these people to safety.”
Added Williams: “It shouldn’t happen. New Zealand have offered to take them … let’s get them off the islands and let’s get them to New Zealand shores, please.”