Tagata Pasifika

The Pacific voice on
New Zealand television
since 1987

Tagata Pasifika

The Pacific voice on
New Zealand television
since 1987

DPM re-affirms Aotearoa’s commitment to its Pacific neighbours

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John Pulu | Presenter/ Reporter/Director

Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Vaovasamanaia Winston Peters led a New Zealand delegation to Tonga, the Cook Islands and Samoa last month.

It was all about renewing bilateral relationships as well as offering Aotearoa’s assistance in areas impacting these nations.

“More New Zealanders need to understand how critical the future of the Pacific island countries and Tongans are, to our very future,” Peters says.  

Peters, along with health minister Dr Shane Reti, kicked off their visit to the Pacific in the Kingdom of Tonga, meeting with Tongan deputy Prime Minister Samiu Vaipulu. 

“I thank the Honourable minister for the ongoing bilateral assistance from New Zealand that continues to aid our development with funding flowing in, to mutually agreed priority areas of climate change, strengthening economic development, law and justice and education,” Vaipulu says.

Among the many aid projects in Tonga is a new pharmaceutical and medical facility where the New Zealand government contributed $2.4 million.

Tonga’s health minister  Dr Siale ‘Akau’ola adding, “this central pharmacy warehouse will provide a central location for receiving and distributing medicine including vaccine and medical supplies to the rest of Tonga’s health facilities.”

Tonga has benefitted from the relationship with New Zealand over the years but local commentator, Kalafi Moala hopes the country can become more self-sufficient.

“We are so aid dependent many times that we don’t ourselves work and do the things we can do to meet our own needs and that is one thing we don’t ever want to happen,” Moala says.

In the Cook Islands the main focus there was tackling the impacts of climate change, with Peters announcing a $20 million fund for technology to help prepare and respond to extreme weather events like coastal erosion to tropical cyclones and drought.

“The use of technology which we have in this room which wasn’t there 10 years ago is critical for Pacific island countries to prepare in the event of now, ever increasing, ever stronger tropical cyclones and other more extreme weather conditions,” Cook Islands Prime Minister Mark Brown says.

“So resilience in terms of those systems, resilience in terms of physical infrastructure building resilience is critical for us.”

The helping hand from New Zealand also providing relief for those in disaster response work like the  Cook Islands Red Cross Society.  

“New Zealand is a key partner for Cook Islands, it’s our strongest partner when it comes to cyclone response and any emergency so we work closely with the New Zealand High Commission over here,” secretary general Fine Tu’itupou Arnold says.

Meanwhile, Dr Shane Reti visited Rarotonga hospital for the first time as New Zealand’s health minister. This was an opportunity to talk about priority needs like streamlining patient referrals to New Zealand.

Cook Islands associate health minister Te Hani Brown hopes they can work together to make patient referrals from the islands to New Zealand smoother. However, another urgent issue facing her ministry is the retention of health workers on the island.

“It’s getting hard to compete with higher pay packets but there are avenues which we have managed to retain our nurses and doctors,” she says.

“One is through the new Bachelor of Nursing programme which requires the nurses to stay here to study instead of going overseas for three years.”

And speaking of keeping people, the Cook Islands government hopes the construction of the new Punanga Nui farmers market in Avarua will help the local economy to thrive with New Zealand chipping in with $8 million.

Cook Islands Deputy Prime Minister Albert Nicholas is excited about what the aid will do for local business.

“Over the years the market has transformed into a place of trade for all grass root individua,l small business and non-governmental organisations. It is a place where we showcase Cook Islands food, arts and culture,” he says.

In  Samoa, they refer to Deputy Prime Minister Peters by his matai title Vaovasamanaia. During their bilateral meeting, Samoa’s Prime Minister Fiamē Naomi Mataʻafa acknowledged the strong bond between the two countries.

“Today the Deputy Prime Minister and I signed the Samoa New Zealand partnership agreement reflecting areas of cooperation we have mutually agreed to for the next five years.”  

Another topic of discussion during this visit was the movement of workers out of Samoa in recent times which has created a labour shortage, such as in the health sector.

But it is hoped that a $3.5-million-dollar package for a new Bachelor of Health Science programme at the National University of Samoa can keep people back.

“Usually, peoples go to study in Fiji and New Zealand and Australia in scholarships form but now we are so lucky that we can study in our own homeland,” says education minister Seuula Ioane Tuā’au 

Meanwhile helping to boost health services across the region is a further $30 million over five years to better link health systems with New Zealand.



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