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Pacific Leaders Pulls Out Of Areds MRI Process

Pacific Leaders Group Pulls Out Of Areds MRI Process

Ten Pacific leaders have withdrawn their support for the Auckland Regional Economic Development Strategy (AREDS) initiative after concerns that the strategy is marginalising Pacific peoples.

The Pacific Leaders Group (PLG) for AREDS said lack of support for capacity building and bureaucratic indifference to their perspectives were part of the reason.

"This has not been an easy decision for us," says PLG Chairman Nuku Rapana. "We've enjoyed the working relationships, but the time has come for the Pacific Leaders Group to provide solid leadership to the Pacific communities and AREDS, instead of being a token group."

AREDS was established and funded by the local government authorities in wider Auckland to advance the future social and economic wellbeing of the Auckland region. The Pacific Leaders Group was formed in partnership with AREDS, to investigate opportunities for Pacific capacity building and help define a clear economic direction for the region's future.

The Pacific Leaders Group is pulling its support midway through the AREDS Major Regional Impact (MRI) project development process which began in October.

PLG Vice Chair, Su'a Viliamu Sio, says the group's views have not been properly represented within the MRI process despite early discussions about a Pacific Arts Development Centre and a Pacific Tourism Cluster project. He says the PLG was prepared to provide input to the selected MRI projects. However when it was clear that AREDS had adopted a "non-negotiable" approach and agenda, the PLG's support for the process dissolved.

"Initially there were four MRI conceptual groups but they kept changing and mutating and now there are more additional groups. This put considerable strain on our volunteer group to attend all the meetings," says Su'a. "We will now focus on engaging direct support from all stakeholders to get the two Pacific projects up and running."

Rapana and Sio say the positive outcomes for Pacific communities will also benefit New Zealand as a whole.

"AREDS is determined to forge forward, with or without input from the Pacific Leaders Group," says Rapana. "We are not prepared to compromise the integrity of our mission of "advancing the social and economic position of Pacific people in the Auckland region."

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