Topics: Pacific Affairs, Politics

Labour Party promises to support Pacific climate change refugees

By Leah Te Whata

Te Atatū MP Phil Twyford has made a promise on behalf of the Labour Party to support Pacific Nations in the wake of climate change. The promise was made at the annual Kiribati Independence celebration in Auckland.

Rising sea levels continue to threaten Kiribati communities.

Gerard Tioti's family moved to New Zealand from Kiribati when he was four years old, he told Te Kāea, "We don't know how many more years before our land is completely gone."

Labour MP Carmel Sepuloni says, "It's really sad for them to see their cultural homeland sinking beneath the surface of the ocean."

Less land area means more migration and relocation.

Tioiti says, "Everyone's moving inland but because there's such a small space, there's no more space for people."

Kiribati families are calling on New Zealand Immigration services for help.

"A lot of our hope is with the NZ immigration, for them to see the struggle, and help us get in easier or show us the way in" adds Tioti.

Sepuloni says, "New Zealand needs to be the one that puts their hands up and says we're here to help and we're going to do something about this."

Labour MP Phil Twyford has made a promise to protect Pacific communities affected by climate change, "We will stand by them and support their right to migrate and settle with dignity and I make that promise today on behalf of the New Zealand Labour Party."

"New Zealand has to develop a policy around this, we have to be there to support our Pacific brothers and sisters. We know that many of their islands are becoming uninhabitable and that's not going to improve anytime soon" says Sepuloni.

Their land may be sinking but their culture remains afloat.

Tioti says, "Just because our land is gone we will bring our land with us and when we're here, we're on land and it will bring us together as Kiribati - as one, maybe for just the one time throughout the year, but that one time is important to us."

Hundreds turned out to celebrate the 38th Kiribati Independence Anniversary.