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Clean water initiative for low-lying Pacific islands

Rt Hon John Key
Prime Minister

4 September 2013

Clean water initiative for low-lying Pacific islands

Prime Minister John Key today announced a $5 million initiative to help five low-lying Pacific countries vulnerable to water shortages to better manage their fresh water resources.

“For a number of Pacific countries, access to safe, clean drinking water is not guaranteed. Ensuring communities and businesses can access clean drinking water will go a long way to improving people’s health and livelihoods,” Mr Key says.

“As part of a practical solution, we have entered into a new five-year partnership with the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC) to improve water security in Tuvalu, Tokelau, Kiribati, the Cook Islands and the Republic of the Marshall Islands.

“This project will focus on practical steps such as ensuring gutters are properly connected to storage tanks, maintaining storage facilities and training national water security officers to monitor water levels and help communities be better prepared for water shortages,” Mr Key says.

Low-lying island nations are particularly susceptible to salt water inundation. The lack of natural catchments, ground water, rivers, streams, and a vulnerability to extreme weather events all compromise these countries’ water resources.

“On top of the human and health difficulties, water issues hold these economies back, through everything from crop failures, to the difficulty of establishing tourist industries when they can’t rely on a good supply of safe water,” Mr Key says.

Funding will go to the SPC and be allocated to activities in each country. New Zealand’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade will help develop implementation plans for each country.

The programme is expected to start within six months, with funding spread across the full five years.

“New Zealand’s commitment to improving water infrastructure and management in the Pacific is an important part of our climate change support to the region. We have committed to, and invested more than $40 million over the last three years in a range of practical water related initiatives,” Mr Key says.

“At last year’s Forum, we announced that New Zealand would work with the Cook Islands and Chinese governments to improve the water infrastructure on Rarotonga. This major project will deliver safe drinking water to all homes and businesses on Rarotonga, the tourist and economic hub of the Cook Islands, by 2015.

“In Kiribati we have helped improve rainwater harvesting and collection facilities, resulting in the total storage capacity on Tarawa and Kiritimati Islands increasing by a million cubic litres.

“New Zealand has also provided emergency assistance following droughts in Tuvalu, Tokelau and the Republic of the Marshall Islands since 2011, and unfortunately low rainfall and limited water infrastructure place these nations at further risk of water shortages.

“We will always be on hand to support our Pacific neighbours when they face challenges such as water shortages. However, the aim of New Zealand’s investments in the region and today’s announcement is to help communities better manage their water resources and become more resilient to the droughts and extreme weather associated with climate change,” Mr Key says.

Mr Key is in the Marshall Islands for the 44th Pacific Island Forum. He returns to New Zealand on Friday.

ENDS

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