News 12 Jul 2018
As the New Zealand High Commissioner to the Solomon Islands, Don Higgins is amazed at the country’s diversity.
“With a population of 600,000 people living on 900 islands and speaking more than 80 different languages, it has its logistical challenges,” says Don.
“But I know how keen local businesspeople are to strengthening ties with its Pacific neighbours. We have a stable government, New Zealand and Australian companies are returning and there are major projects underway, including a large hydro development.”
The Solomons are also keen to follow the lead of its neighbour Papua New Guinea into adventure tourism. Two new airports are in the pipeline to meet the expected demand.
“It has huge potential for adventure tourism, with some of the best diving spots in the world.”
Don would also like to see more support for local handicrafts and produce, with some of its rich cocoa products used for high-end Swiss-made chocolates.
It’s a far cry for the Solomon Islands following the ethnic conflict between locals from the main island of Guadalcanal (where Honiara is located) and those from the neighbouring island of Malaita, who moved to the capital where employment opportunities are far greater. Tensions erupted into violence in 1999, which eventually led to a collaboration of Pacific Island nations forming RAMSI – the Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands.
RAMSI was formed in 2003 as a regional response and stayed in operation (mainly by local police as tensions continued to decrease) until last year.
“After 14 years of stability, good growth in the economy, a real drive to implement strong education programmes, and growing investment interest from Asia, I can’t see a return to those days. The Solomons are ready to do business.”