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Tongan report tabled in Parliament

Monday, 8 August 2005

Tongan report tabled in Parliament

Parliament's foreign affairs, defence and trade select committee today tabled its report into its inquiry into New Zealand's relationship with the Kingdom of Tonga.

The report makes 17 recommendations aimed at strengthening Tonga's public and private sectors to meet the challenges of a weakening economy, rising unemployment, and deepening political divisions.

Committee chairman, United Future leader, Hon Peter Dunne, MP, says the relationship is important because about 40% of Tongans live in New Zealand and the kingdom is increasingly dependent on foreign remittances and external aid.

The report recommends strengthening ties between New Zealand politicians and judges and their Tongan counterparts, as well as increased efforts to assist Tonga to find new markets for its exports, especially fresh produce.

It also says Tonga's weak public sector should be strengthened, including new Customs procedures to prevent corruption at the border.

Although many submitters urged New Zealand to take strong action to bring about democracy in Tonga, the committee says, "We consider that the impetus for change must come from within Tonga; it is not New Zealand's role to force change upon Tonga. It is a sovereign country ......"

The committee heard 80 submissions from people and organisations at hearings in New Zealand, but was unable to visit Tonga because the Government was not willing to agree to the committee's request.

The full report can be viewed at:

Tonga Report (pdf)
http://img.scoop.co.nz/media/pdfs/0508/TongaFADTreport.pdf.

ENDS


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