29 Sep 2005

NZ Pacific Islander communities voice concern at Forum Plan

9:21 am on 29 September 2005

The final draft of the Pacific Islands Forum's Pacific Plan was presented by the New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs to members of Wellington's Pacific Reference Group last night.

The Plan - to strengthen regional cooperation - has evolved after many consultations, and it will be presented at the Forum leaders' summit in Papua New Guinea next month.

However, the New Zealand educator Mino Cleverly, says the document falls short of addressing the needs of Pacific Islander communities in New Zealand.

Mr Cleverly says Pacific people should be asked what they think of claims New Zealand is too dominant within the Forum.

"From the Pacific leaders' perspectives, Australia and New Zealand play a very dominant role, and if New Zealand's role is dominant, then what is being said, on behalf of our Pacific people within New Zealand Aotearoa."

Mino Cleverley says while economic growth appears to be one of the four cornerstones of the Plan, it falls short of addressing the brain-drain issue.

He says for example Samoa loses many of its professionals overseas...

...so who's going to replace them in Samoa. We're getting this drain to the benefit of Australia and New Zealand. The sustainability is not just about economics and sustainability and the environment, but it's also about sustaining a population and their people in their communities.

Representatives of Pacific Islander communities voiced concern that consultations appeared to be at an end.

But the Director of the Pacific Division for Foreign Affairs, Heather Riddle, says Pacific communities will get further opportunities to have their say.

This is not a once-for-all. The process of consultation is part of a long term process. The plan will evolve over time, and with it there will be opportunities for Pacific communities to continue to input.