Hawkins also has various projects underway in Papua New Guinea, Samoa and Cook Islands. Fletcher Construction, which established a presence in the region in 1946, now has permanent offices in Papua New Guinea, Fiji, American Samoa, Samoa, Tonga, the Solomon Islands and Vanuatu.
Pacific seasonal worker schemes with New Zealand and Australia have also created strong people connections over the years. More than 6500 Pacific seasonal workers were employed by New Zealand companies between 2013 and 2014, a number that's more than doubled since the scheme began in 2007.
Consider the world of rugby, where you could say that Pacific islanders are the All Black's number one import! There aren't many sporting events in the world that hold the power to stop a nation like the recent Manu Samoa vs. All Blacks match in Apia.
Like New Zealand in the past, as China continues to grow its role in global trade so has its relationship with the pacific changed.
Over the next 10 years, China is expected to become a top-three trading partner in most Pacific countries. For countries like Papua New Guinea, China is set to become the number-two trading partner behind Australia.
ANZ has had a presence in the Pacific for 135 years and is the only bank with a network across 12 countries, making it a 'home market' for the bank alongside Australia and New Zealand. As such, we have a unique view on trade and investment flows in the region.
ANZ research shows China has been an active investor in Fiji over the past decade, accumulating over $US200m in Foreign Direct Investment (FDI).
Fiji has increasingly tapped on Asian supply chains for trade and in 2014 the country's trade with Asia and the Pacific Islands reached 53 per cent. This ratio has climbed from 37 per cent a decade ago.
These people ties in between the Pacific and its neighbours open up tremendous opportunities because trust is at the heart of these relationships.
While we need to be realistic and acknowledge some of the challenges involved to grasp trade opportunities in the Pacific, such as perceived political risks, infrastructure challenges, scale in smaller economies and human capital challenges in some markets, I am optimistic.
NOTHING, YET SO MUCH, HAS CHANGED.
So we're not so different from 200 years ago and yet so much has happened to grow the Pacific region into what it is today.
One thing is certain – the opportunities imagined by early traders in the Pacific still exist, but only for the bold and the brave, and perhaps for anyone with a passion for rugby!