New Zealand commits $1 billion to Pacific

By Ripeka Timutimu

The 46th Pacific Island Forum began today in Papua New Guinea. Sixteen heads of governments from around the Pacific met to discuss big issues like climate change and fish stocks.

Prime Minister John Key has announced New Zealand will provide $1 billion in development assistance to the Pacific region over the next three years.

He says the focus will be working with Pacific governments to develop sectors like fisheries and tourism.

New Zealand Prime Minister John Key was welcomed by the people of Papua New Guinea.

But it remains to be seen whether or not he will welcome climate change refugees into New Zealand.

Dr Helen Szoke says, “This issue of climate change is about survival. It's an acute problem, it's something that can't be put off into the future, and certainly we heard the president of Kiribati today talk about the fact that nothing is done and even if something is done some of these countries won't exist Ito the future.”

Kiribati President Anote Tong is hoping all leaders of the 16 nations don't turn their back, asking them to lock in a commitment of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees celsius. Australia's head of Oxfam agrees.

Dr Helen Szoke says, “They can't do the heavy lifting on their own. They need the developed countries to say what's important is the relationship with our neighbours not necessarily for example the protection of the coal industry in Australia.”

Prime Minister John Key says, “Because of our dependence on agriculture I think our target is both realist and actually quite ambitious for a country like New Zealand given so much of our energy is renewable.”

In Papua New Guinea, life is a struggle for many. Oxfam says it's a familiar sight throughout the Pacific and migrating from their homelands could add to that struggle.

“Leaders and communities are talking about migration with dignity this is creating the opportunity that when people do have to move they move within the context of understanding the link to the land, culture, tradition and retention of language and to things that a sacred and spiritual,” says Dr Helen Szoke.

In stark contrast, leaders paint a perfect picture today outside Parliament. No doubt countries will be jostling to get the best position that will benefit their people the most.