Samoan Prime Minister Fiame Naomi Mata’afa has arrived in New Zealand for her first official bilateral overseas visit since taking office, with China and regional security high on the agenda.

Sworn in amid a constitutional crisis, the island nation’s first female prime minister made headlines around the world last year when she was locked out of parliament, with the former government refusing to relinquish power.

“Everything was resting on the judiciary. Thank God they held,” she told 1News.

After a year in the role, Mata’afa is now looking to cement the country’s ties with New Zealand.

It comes off the back of a visit to Fiji, where she helped to stitch together a deal stopping small island nations from walking away from the Pacific Islands Forum at a time when China has made an aggressive bid for influence.

“The Pacific has now become such a contested area again and it makes it even more critical for us to be united as a region,” she said.

While the world leader is a staunch supporter of discussing security as a region, Mata’afa had a pointed message for larger countries wanting a say.

“This whole fuss about the Solomons and China signing up but Australia did their treaty with the AUKUS, they have the Quad arrangement – no one ever asked us,” she said.

“When is it time for the Pacific to be included in these so-called security issues and when do they pass over our heads?”

While Samoa, like other Pacific countries, counts China as an important development partner, it remains cautious.

“It’s really about mutual interest and if you are asking about the line, it’s when they push that line to push their interests versus our interests.”

Mata’afa will meet with Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern on Tuesday.