News 14 Jun 2019
(L - R: Don Mann, Dr Manumatavai Tupou-Roosen, Minister Hon Aupito Su'a William Sio, MP Anahila Kanongata'a-Suisuiki, Rachel Afeaki-Taumoepeau. Credit: Coconut Wireless, Mary Aue)
Thanks to MFAT, I had the honour of being included in New Zealand’s Pacific Mission to Melanesia led by Rt. Hon Winston Peters, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs.
Of significance was the leadership role played by Hon Aupito Su’a William Sio, Minister for Pacific Peoples, supported by a cross-party cohort of MPs and a 70-strong delegation from the private sector, civil society and government.
This united demonstration of leadership was an affirmation of our identity as a Pacific nation, a commitment to diversity and emerging leaders, shared histories and deep connections throughout the Pacific region.
Reflecting on the mission, I asked myself if it achieved the objectives of demonstrating New Zealand's commitment to development in the region in alignment with domestic priorities of Solomon Islands and Vanuatu governments.
Did I see the principles of the Pacific Reset in action: understanding, friendship, mutual benefit, collective ambition and sustainability?
We visited the Royal Solomon Islands Police (RSIP) Headquarters in Honiara.
The New Zealand Police are implementing a four-year bilateral programme, assisting with improving national and regional security through sustainable community engagement.
I met with NZ Police Inspector George Fa'alogo
In executing his assistance-only role, George rescinds all signs of rank, authority, control and power. George doesn't wear his inspector badges, epaulets or medals.
He simply uses his leadership qualities to influence.
On display were numerous images of police community engagement in action. The NZ Police can’t be seen in any of those images. Instead, local police stand alongside local people.
Nation building as defined by Solomon Island communities, whilst protecting the mana of RSIP.
New Zealand supports the United Nations project ‘Markets for Change’, an initiative that aims to ensure marketplaces promote gender equality and women’s empowerment.
The Honiara Central Market is an economic and social hub of Honiara where over 1,000 vendors assemble daily.
Vendor Association President Moreen Sariki explained the higher purpose at play, “addressing women’s issues in a male-dominated society can be a challenge . . . we work hard to establish partnerships with men in order to address issues facing women.”
Moreen and her leadership team of remarkable women clearly provide a safe, inclusive and non-discriminatory environment.
More than 80% of the vendors are women.
Upon departing the Solomon Islands, we visited Melemaat, one of the largest villages in Vanuatu with a population of around 5,000.
Melemaat is the source of 500 workers participating in the Recognised Seasonal Employer (RSE) programme.
RSE workers (predominately men) leave their home and families for months on end to provide much needed labour in support of New Zealand’s agricultural sector.
In return, RSE workers send home a large portion of their take-home income to their families and community.
We met village Chief Simeon Poilapa. We heard first-hand accounts from his people on the positive transformation of their housing, schools and well-being from revenue remitted to Melemaat.
In making her thank you speech on behalf of our delegation, Labour MP Anahila Kanongata’a-Suisuiki made special mention of the sacrifices made by women and children in allowing their men to work in New Zealand.
A sacrifice that is ultimately mutually beneficial to both Vanuatu and New Zealand.
I attended more than 20 engagements during the six-day mission.
I saw evidence of New Zealand’s partnership approach to regional development through investment in aviation, infrastructure, health, tourism, education, community development, security and the creative sector.
On one hand, commitments such as these have been ongoing for many years therefore in the first instance the Pacific Reset could be viewed as a continuum of foreign policy.
On the other hand, I came to the realisation that the spirit of the Pacific Reset is found beyond examples of bricks and mortar investment, it's embedded in Aotearoa’s unique identity - kotahitanga, tino rangatiratanga, whānaungatanga, kaitiakitanga, and manaakitanga*.
To the people of Solomon Islands and Vanuatu, thank you for allowing us into your home and for your warm generosity and hospitality in sharing a glimpse of your life experiences.
Your spirit of humanity and hope shines bright even in the face of considerable issues such as climate change, economic fragility, and pressing social, demographic and health challenges.
Finally, to my incredible colleagues who took part in the mission; exceptional leaders and a representation of our bright future – it was privilege to be in your company.
Arohanui atu ki a koutou katoa.
Photos: Aimee Gulliver of MFAT Pacific Division