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PM to attend Pacific Island Forum

Mon, 2 Aug 2004

PM to attend Pacific Island Forum in Samoa and visit Tokelau

Prime Minister Helen Clark leaves on Thursday for the 2004 Pacific Islands Forum to be held in Apia, Samoa. She will also visit Tokelau - the first Prime Ministerial visit since David Lange's Tokelau trip in 1985, and only the third by a New Zealand Prime Minister.

Helen Clark said the Apia meeting will carry on the development of the Pacific Plan as agreed at the special Leaders' meeting in Auckland in April.

"The Forum review called for new strategies and initiatives to create stronger and deeper links between the countries of the region. Leaders agreed to strengthen the role of the Forum Secretary-General, streamline the Forum's operations, and promote better governance in the Pacific.

"The review aimed to help Pacific Island countries improve the lives of their people and meet the challenges of small size, limited resources, and distance from markets."

New Zealand will contribute $500,000 to help the Forum advance the Pacific Plan and other review proposals endorsed by leaders, Helen Clark said.

The Forum will also discuss the ongoing Regional Assistance Mission to the Solomon Islands, and admit French Polynesia as an observer. Representatives of Tokelau will also have the opportunity to meet Forum participants.

Helen Clark will visit Tokelau immediately after the Forum. This visit, only the third by a New Zealand Prime Minister in the almost 80 years that Tokelau has been administered by New Zealand, is particularly timely as Tokelau is in a process, supported by New Zealand, of moving towards greater political self-reliance.

"Tokelau's 1500 residents are New Zealand citizens. There are also 6000 Tokelauans living in New Zealand.

"In September, New Zealand and Tokelau officials aim to reach agreement on a draft Treaty which would give effect to self government for Tokelau in free association with New Zealand.

"This draft would then be considered in Tokelau before high level talks in New Zealand. The objective is to hold a referendum in Tokelau late next year on the proposal for self government," Helen Clark said.

Helen Clark will travel to Samoa and Tokelau from 4 11 August. Foreign Minister Phil Goff will also travel to Samoa to participate in the Post Forum Dialogue with countries and groupings from outside the region. Associate Minister of Pacific Island Affairs Taito Phillip Field will also accompany the Prime Minister. Transport will be provided by RNZAF 757. Helen Clark will travel to Tokelau (8-10 August) on HMNZS Te Kaha.

The Forum is being held in Samoa after Niue, the scheduled host, was devastated by Cyclone Heta at the beginning of this year. Helen Clark thanked Samoa for stepping in at short notice when Niue was unable to host.

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