Foreign Affairs Minister Winston Peters will host Australian Minister for Foreign Affairs Marise Payne on Friday and Saturday as part of their six-monthly foreign policy discussions.

“Australia is New Zealand’s most important bilateral partner and our relationship is overwhelmingly positive,” Peters said in a statement.

“For two independent nations, Australia and New Zealand enjoy an unparalleled level of connection and integration. Our discussion will help ensure the trans-Tasman relationship is working effectively.

“We will discuss in depth the global and regional issues where we have shared interests.”

Issues likely to be brought up include the treatment of detained New Zealanders in Australia, and trans-Tasman co-operation in the Pacific amid Australia’s increasing concern over the influence of China in the region.

Beijing has poured billions of dollars in loans for infrastructure projects in the Pacific under President Xi Jinping’s “Belt and Road” initiative.

Last November during Apec in Port Moresby, in a move widely seen to counter China’s influence, Australia and the US announced plans to build a naval base on Papua New Guinea’s Manus Island.

Around the same time, Peters and Payne announced a joint cyber security project for the Pacific to support an open, free and secure internet to drive economic growth and protect national security.

New Zealand has also joined Australia, the US, Japan, and Papua New Guinea in a $1.7 billion project to bring electricity to nearly three quarters of Papua New Guinea; New Zealand is contributing about $20 million.

It has been about a year since Peters announced a new approach – called Pacific Reset – to assert New Zealand’s influence in the increasingly-contested strategic Pacific region.

The meeting in Auckland will prepare the way for the annual meeting of New Zealand and Australian Prime Ministers, due to take place at the end of the month in Auckland.