23 Mar 2006

New Zealand Opposition Leader plans to familiarise himself with the Pacific

8:27 pm on 23 March 2006

The New Zealand Opposition leader, Don Brash is in the Cook Islands and will meet with the Prime Minister and his Deputy in an effort to familarise himself with the Pacific.

Dr Brash is accompanied by National MPs Murray McCully and John Hayes.

The National Party leader has reiterated comments made by the New Zealand Foreign Minister Winston Peters, by saying the Pacific region is of fundamental importance to New Zealand.

Dr Brash says his Cook Island visit reflects this.

"I haven't been to the Cook Islands previously and clearly the Cook Islands has a special constitutional relationship with New Zealand. The Cook Islands citizens have New Zealand citizenship also and there are a lot of Cook Islanders living in New Zealand, probably indeed four or five times as many in New Zealand as in the Cook Islands, for that reason it's important that I have an understanding of the issues."

Don Brash will also take time to visit NZ-aid funded projects like the Avatiu Harbour development.

He says it will be a chance to check on how smooth the New Zealand aid agency runs.