The Pacific Islands Forum is a chance for leaders to come together, but a photo opportunity turned into a competition on Tapuaetai Island today.
Prime Minister John Key and 13 other Pacific leaders spent the night in Aitutaki last night before heading to the nearby island in the Cooks this morning by vaka, traditional boat.
Key enjoyed the 40 minute boat ride and spent the time chatting with leaders.
Musicians standing in the water and drummers on the beach welcomed the leaders.
"I though it was nice. Sounds very Pacific doesn't it," he said.
Once on dry land, the leaders were each taken to plant a tamanu tree.
Key was in a hurry to scoop the earth into the hole with a half coconut shell.
Though he insisted it was not a race, he cheered "we won" when the task was completed.
A local suggested it was "no wonder" the All Blacks always won.
But when a journalist suggested his tree was smaller than the rest Key objected.
"It's just that we buried it more efficiently.
"I'm sure it will grow to something very strong and precious."
When an official suggested Key could vote off the journalists like a survivor programme, he seemed to like the idea.
"I'm not going to vote them off. I'm going to bury them. Six feet under they'll never leave."
He said he might come back to visit his tree.
His wife, Bronagh, deserved a holiday anyway.
"Not a bad part of the world, although no accommodation."
Cook Islands Prime Minister Henry Puna said the tree planting was an environmental gesture and ceremony to welcome the leaders.
"I am proud to show off my beautiful country."
The leaders are having to hold their retreat on the boat they arrived on because there are no buildings on the island.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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