18 Apr 2013

Forum a chance for New Zealand MPs to better connect with Pacific communities

4:17 pm on 18 April 2013

The Chairman of New Zealand's foreign affairs, defence and trade select committee says the Pacific Parliamentarians Forum underway in Wellington should help forge a greater understanding among local MPs of both the Pacific communities and the islands region.

About 70 MPs from 18 Pacific nations or territories have converged on New Zealand's capital for the five-day event.

The event's organiser, John Hayes, says there's a need to address a lack of regional cohesion as the Pacific Islands Forum has lost some of its original focus.

He says New Zealand MPs in particular can benefit from the great networking opportunities that this week's Forum provides.

"We were feeling ourselves, as members of parliament, that despite our growing Pacific communities here in New Zealand, as the PM said before seven percent now of our population, we felt that Parliament was not that well engaged with its communities across the region."

An independent Kiribati MP at the Wellington forum says climate change is a key issue that the parliamentarians need to discuss.

Martin Moreti says in Kiribati there is no doubt, for the people of his home atoll, about the affects.

There's a kind of sad. Because our water has become salty, and our land eroded. So we think our government should do something better in the future for our generation.

A Tonga opposition MP says parliamentarians need to discuss the sustainability of New Zealand's overseas aid.

Dr Sitiveni Halapua says traditionally aid has been given to the government of the day, but he would like to see New Zealand take the lead in terms of thinking differently.

Their counterpart governments are important but it is very important to know that the sustainability of what we are doing in the Pacific Islands because at the end of the day, if we are not doing very well, that would also affect New Zealand. In terms of exploring how New Zealand foreign aid can be used by non government projects and organisations.

Sitiveni Halapua says the dependence on overseas loans for many Pacific countries is unsustainable.