12 Jun 2006

New Zealand considers Pacific aid delivery change

11:29 am on 12 June 2006

New Zealand may consider changes to the way it provides aid for the Pacific after a visit to the Cook Islands by a 60-strong delegation of parliamentarians and business people.

The delegation returned home yesterday with its leader, the foreign minister Winston Peters saying the government will look into criticism of the way Air New Zealand and Telecom operate in the Cooks.

Cooks Islands access to student loans, pensions and ways to help the fishing industry were also on the agenda.

Don Wiseman reports.

"Mr Peters told a Cook Islands Chamber of Commerce lunch that New Zealand would need to look at how it could help with sewage treatment on Rarotonga before the lagoon, which is critical to its highly successful tourism industry, is wrecked. The Chamber president, Teresa Manarangi-Trott spoke of the need for bulk funding of aid to ensure such major infrastructural projects can be completed quickly and New Zealand Revenue Minister, Peter Dunne, says there is clearly a frustration with NZAID. Ms Manarangi-Trott also said that Air New Zealand handicapped business by no longer providing a significant freight capacity or flying direct form the American West Coast, while Telecom was attacked for allegedly excessive pricing. Mr Peters says these issues will be looked into. With a view to trying to shore up the country's steadily depleting population, Mr Peters says he would like to see Cook Islands students eligible for New Zealand student loans able to use that funding in the Cooks, and he says a decision on the portability of superannuation is due soon."

The fishing industry is looking to New Zealand to help ensure that the vast southern Cooks fishery is exploited for the benefit of the Cook Islands and some are critical of the current help under the Marine Resources Institutional Strengthening programme.

Mr Peters says New Zealand has to be mindful of this and that the policy followed is the best to ensure the long term sustainability of fishing in the Cook Islands.