News 9 Mar 2018
New Zealand is to give almost $10 million to Samoa - a further $3 million in disaster aid and $6.5m to help young people and women set up small businesses.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced the donation following a bilateral meeting with Samoan Prime Minister Aiono Sailele Malielegaoi Tuila'epa.
Ardern was in Samoa's capital Apia on the first leg of a whirlwind tour of the Pacific.
"We've made a commitment today to a contribution of $3 million in upfront funding to the Government as they work their needs," Ardern said.
"Cyclone Gita brought flooding to low lying and coastal areas of both Samoa's main islands, causing damage to homes, businesses and infrastructure," she said. Ardern was also stopping off in Tonga on the week-long trip, which was harder hit by the cyclone.
"I have to congratulate the Prime Minister in the wake of Cyclone Gita for her to prevail on this trip," the Samoan Prime Minister said.
The pair met at the Samoan Government Building in Apia with foreign affairs minister Winston Peters also attending.
"New Zealand and Samoa obviously have a unique friendship, and that's why it was so important to us so early on as a new government to travel to Samoa," Ardern said.
Samoan Deputy PM Fiame Naomi Mata’afa gave the NZ delegation a warm welcome in Apia.
"New Zealand is a second home for many and that relationship is unique."
There was a huge diaspora of Samoans in New Zealand, with almost as many living in New Zealand as in Samoa.
The $6.5m in development funding for Samoa will be distributed to women and young people starting small and medium-sized businesses.
"Women and young people are strongly represented in the small and medium enterprise sector so this funding will have a direct impact on their ability to establish sustainable businesses and help Samoa achieve sustained and inclusive economic growth," Ardern said.
"In this region about half of the population could be described as young people."
The funding announcement comes soon after Foreign Affairs Minister Winston Peters drew attention to the large amount of funding that other countries were pouring into Samoa, traditionally a country New Zealand has provided the majority of aid for.
China has loaned the Samoan governments tens of millions of dollars in concessionary loans to build a new airport and hospital in Samoa.
Peters did not specifically mention China but noted this funding was causing "strategic anxiety" about the possibility of lessening New Zealand influence in the region.
Asked about Chinese aid, Tuila'epa could not describe the exact amount the Government owed China, saying he was "an old man" and no longer the Finance Minister.
He said the aid had been given in an open and transparent fashion.
"[China] have earmarked for the next five years US$2 billlion for grants to Pacific Islands and $2 billion for soft loans. It's all transparent, it's all out in the open."
Ardern acknowledged that Samoa was already on track to meet their Paris commitments to reducing carbon emissions. New Zealand's emissions continue to rise.
"Collectively I think we have a role to play in advocating on behalf of the Pacific together in an international forum as well, so the effects of climate change in this region is known well," Ardern said.
She was careful to introduce all the New Zealand journalists who asked questions, most of them sitting cross-legged on the floor in front of them.
Near the end of the press conference, Ardern was asked my local media if she was enjoying her stay.
She said she was, but declined to endorse it as "the most beautiful Pacific island."
"I've been called the daughter of Niue, please don't take that personally. You can be called the daughter of many places."