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Pacific Review Tabled in Parliament

13 December 2010

“The most significant review of New Zealand’s relationships with its Pacific neighbours in more than 25 years has concluded with the tabling in Parliament of a report from the Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade committee,” committee chair John Hayes said.

The report contains more than 40 recommendations for the Government to consider. The Government is expected to give its response within 90 days.

Mr Hayes said the committee’s key term of reference was to investigate the role New Zealand plays and can play in helping Pacific Island Forum nations to develop sustainable economies.

The committee travelled around New Zealand and the Pacific region to hear evidence.

“It is clearly time for a concerted effort by the New Zealand Government to develop a clear strategy toward each of our Pacific neighbours, and to act on it,” Mr Hayes said.

Recommendations include:

• A call for an increased focus of New Zealand’s $600 million aid funds on the Pacific region rather than spreading our efforts too widely and too thinly.

• Greater attention to the needs of Realm-of-New Zealand entities – Cook Islands, Niue and Tokelau – and Polynesia and Kiribati.

• The New Zealand Parliament to set aside time each year for a dialogue on Pacific issues. Young Parliamentarians from across the Pacific would be invited to this session and spend several days discussing issues. The committee saw value in strengthening the dialogue and networks between the regions’ up and coming leaders. Opportunities to develop the regions’ relationships have over recent years been constrained by a contraction of the time available for the annual Forum dialogue.

• A concerted effort to improve delivery of health, education, infrastructure, and law and order services to communities of people with New Zealand citizenship.

• The committee believes that a lack of capital stemming from communal land ownership found throughout the region is constraining investment and job growth. To help the region grow the committee suggests $100 million of aid funds be channeled through existing trading banks on normal commercial terms to Pacific Islanders with sound business plans. The proposal would help Pacific Islanders engage in activity to harvest, process, and market their own resources. This includes fish, timber, tourism and the commercial production of fruit and vegetables.

• Too great a proportion of aid allocations have been captured by bureaucracy at the expense of the private sector. There is a need to rebalance support over time.

• Concern was expressed about the lack of coverage of New Zealand media in the region. The committee suggests greater support be given to increasing both radio and television coverage to the Pacific.

• Increase the number of workers accepted under the Recognised Seasonal Employer Scheme, and extend its scope beyond the horticulture and viticulture industries.

ENDS

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