4 Mar 2019

Kiribati welcomes NZ's help to access the 'right to life'

11:44 am on 4 March 2019

The Kiribati government says a New Zealand aid package will help people get one of the basic needs for life.

Last week while in Kiribati, New Zealand Foreign Affairs Minister Winston Peters announced a package that includes $US680,000 towards a reticulated sanitation system to serve the thousands of people who live in South Tarawa.

Mr Peters also opened a New Zealand-funded Reverse Osmosis Desalination Plant which will turn 500,000 litres of ocean water into fresh drinking water a day.

The NZ-funded Reverse Osmosis Plant in Tarawa

The NZ-funded Reverse Osmosis Plant in Tarawa Photo: RNZ Pacific / Koro Vaka'uta

Kiribati struggles with its water sources, with wells being contaminated by king tides that regularly inundate the low-lying atoll of Tarawa.

The Kiribati Minister of Infrastructure and Sustainable Energy, Ruatiki Tekaiara, said this was why the New Zealand assistance was so important.

"Fresh water is a finite resource in Kiribati and is a basic need," he said.

"The right to water is the right to life. It is vital for our very existence and absolute necessity for economic and social development and environmental sustainability."

Minister Ruatiki Tekaiara

Minister Ruatiki Tekaiara Photo: RNZ Pacific / Koro Vaka'uta

Mr Tekaiara said the assistance also produced hope for the future.

"We envision a day where we will have a connected water sources that are [in] abundance and not at risk of contamination as our wells are," he said.

"This project will transform the lives of our people and it will improve the health of our people, improve the health of our people, improve sanitation conditions and reduce spread of water-borne disease and improve the standards of living."

During the New Zealand ministerial visit to Kiribati support was also announced for the local Institute of Technology and its nursing programme, which will create and modernise facilities for an additional 360 students.