News 30 Oct 2018
The future of New Zealand's relationship with the Pacific has been the focus of a meeting between government, business and community leaders in Wellington.
Speaking at the opening of the Monday meeting, New Zealand's deputy Prime Minister, Winston Peters, said the "Pacific Reset" was about developing a genuine partnership with Pacific countries.
Earlier this year, the New Zealand government announced it would spend more than $US480 million on international development over the next decade, with about 45 million to go to NGOs working in development in the Pacific.
It also announced its "Pacific Reset" policy, which Winston Peters says is as crucial for New Zealand as it is for countries in the region.
"We have got a long term commitment in this part of the world and our connections go all the way to Hawaii and beyond. We need to remind other countries, some closer to us, as to why we can be trusted in the Pacific. Why we speak the Pacific values and why we understand its emotions and its sentiments."
Mr Peters says the reset is also about treating the Pacific countries as equals despite their size, just as New Zealand wants bigger countries to treat them as.
The meeting was organised by the Council for International Development, New Zealand's umbrella body for international development and humanitarian organisations.
Its director, Josie Josie Pagani, says the direction this government is taking presents an exciting opportunity for development in the region.
"The whole point of this conference was to bring a Pacific perspective to the reset discussion and I think having the Deputy Prime Minister of the Cook Islands here, Mark Brown, also having Pacific, New Zealand born Pacific people here talking about what it means for the diaspora here and how they move along these corridors between New Zealand and the Pacific. I think this is how we make it real."
The head of the Pasifika Medical Association, Kiki Maoata, says the aim of the reset should be to empower people at the same time as helping them.
"So instead of doing all the things that we used to do we should be able to sit back and say 'okay you are doing fine, sure you made a mistake there but you know how to mitigate that next time lets move on what is the next step in your evolution and development. Lets move on'. That is what I think is about the long-term relationship. It is about offering the opportunity, participating in their development and then allowing them to run and not control the agenda."
Caren Rangi from the Cook Islands Investment Corporation says she is cautiously optimistic.
"The challenge for all of us is making sure that we can all face the same way on this. We hear the word very clearly from deputy prime minster Peters about what he thinks but that has got to translate itself into foreign affairs policy, into the way relationships are managed and honoured and again from both sides."
Ms Rangi says New Zealand needs to be aware that what it thinks is best for the Pacific may not necessarily be what countries in the region want.