29 May 2023

Pacific news in brief for May 29

3:04 pm on 29 May 2023
Guam Power Authority clearing trees and from powerlines.

Guam Power Authority workers clearing trees from powerlines in anticipation of bad weather from typhoon Mawar. Photo: Guam Power Authority

Guam - power

Around 16 per cent of power has been restored in Guam and a 'boil-water notice' is still in place following typhoon Mawar thrashing the island last week.

A government spokesperson said people living in central and north Guam have access to water, but services are operating at reduced capacity in the south.

Residents who have water are being asked to limit their use.

The spokesperson said people should boil water for at least three minutes to kill possible bacteria as a result of run-off.

Pacific/Japan - nuclear

The Pacific Conference of Churches has renewed its calls for Japan to immediately stop its plans to release over one million tonnes of treated radioactive wastewater from the damaged Fukushima nuclear power plant into the Pacific Ocean.

The group is imploring the Pacific Islands Forum, or PIF, to boldly explore punitive measures to deter "unwanted" and "harmful" activities that "threaten the biodiversity and future of the Blue Pacific".

Meanwhile, the 79 Members of the Organisation of African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) States are standing in solidarity with the PIF leaders.

They believe there is no clear evidence the release would be safe, despite Japan arguing otherwise.

PIF Chair Mark Brown said he trusts Japan's reassurance the release is safe.

Palau - COFA

Palau President Surangel Whipps Jnr says the renewal of his country's Compact of Free Association (COFA) agreement with the US will help to secure Palau's economic status as a high-income nation.

The agreement allows the US to keep a strong military presence, whilst injecting investments into Palau.

President Whipps said the agreement is mutually beneficial.

Papua New Guinea - airfares

PNG's national airline Air Niugini is looking at long-term plans of reducing its airfares.

According to Post Courier, as part of this, acting chief executive officer Gary Seddon said Air Niugini is introducing new and more fuel-efficient aircraft.

Seddon said this significant fleet replacement programme will see the acquisition of 13 aircraft over the next five years, including the Boeing 787 Dreamliner.

Seddon added before this, Air Niugini will add two more Boeing 737-800 aircraft to its fleet, as well as four Dash-8 Q-400 turboprops, and these aircraft will arrive by September.

It is also committing $US11.2 million in training over the next three years.

Wallis and Futuna - strike

The last two schools still open in Wallis and Futuna have closed as a pay dispute remains unresolved.

Most teachers began a strike at the start of May, demanding an alignment of their conditions to those of other public servants on France's payroll.

This includes the demand for the full indexation of their salaries, which in the case of Wallis and Futuna, means a doubling of the mainland public servant pay to offset the territory's higher living costs.

Although the French government pays for education, the schools are run by the Catholic church, which operates as a private entity.

Video conferences with the French education ministry have failed to advance matters.

In an escalation, the strikers partly blocked access to the education administration building.

The ministry in France said access must be granted again for any talks to able to resume.

French Polynesia - Air Gekko

New Caledonia's small carrier Air Gekko says it may go to France's highest administrative court if it fails to get an operating license in French Polynesia.

The airline, which uses a private jet for luxury travel, is a subsidiary of New Caledonia's Air Alize.

An application to enter the French Polynesian market was rejected, prompting Air Gekko to challenge the decision in court.

According to Tahiti-infos, a ruling is expected to be made public soon, and should there be a further rejection, Air Gekko said it may take the matter to Paris.

Five years ago, another New Caledonian investor won a court case in Papeete to secure an operating licence in French Polynesia but abandoned the plan to launch an airline once the Covid-19 pandemic hit.

Samoa - banknote

Samoa has launched its first ever 60 tālā bank note to commemorate the country's 60 years of independence.

According to the Samoa Observer, the note features the faces of two prime ministers, current PM Fiamē Naomi Mata'afa and her father, and first PM, Fiamē Mata'afa Faumuina Mulinu'u II.

The note also features all-female signatories on a Samoan banknote for the first time.

The commemorative note - which is also legal tender - includes enhanced security features and the note is carbon neutral.

It will be issued into circulation through the commercial banks from Wednesday.

Solomon Islands - programme

A Women's Resilience to Disasters programme has been launched in Solomon Islands by the government in partnership with Australia and UN Women in the Pacific.

It programme aims to reduce the disproportionate impact of disasters on women and girls by strengthening their resilience and capacity to prepare for, respond to, and recover from disasters.

It will focus on the most disaster-prone areas of the country, with a emphasis on enhancing early warning systems for women, girls, and people living with disabilities in Malaita and the Central Province.

Northern Marianas - firearm

A 7-year-old boy from Saipan is recovering in a hospital in Guam after accidentally shooting himself in the face with a gun.

The CNMI Department of Public Safety said the boy was allegedly playing with the firearm, which was registered.

Police said they responded to the incident in Kagman on Sunday, May 21, at about 9:55pm.

The child was rushed to the Commonwealth Health Center and was later evacuated to Guam for emergency surgery.

A preliminary investigation revealed the child and another minor were playing inside a relative's home when one of them somehow got hold of the firearm.

While handling the gun, one of the children accidentally discharged the weapon.

Cook Islands - minimum wage

The Cook Islands minimum wage is set to increase by 50 cents to $NZ9 per hour - around $US5.40.

The change will come into effect from July 1, as part of the country's 2023 Budget which is now with the public accounts committee.

The caregivers' allowance, which goes to people looking after elderly or people with a disability, will also increase from $200 per month to $300.

It will increase again to $400 per month by July 2024.

Samoa - play

A Samoan writer has turned her research on Robert Louis Stevenson into a play which premiers in Apia tomorrow.

Sia Figiel said a professor had approached her to do a paper on the musical influence of Polynesians and Samoans on Stevenson's writing.

She felt the knowledge she gained about Stevenson from several years of research should be shared with a larger audience than just academics in a paper.

One of the characters in the resulting play, O Tusitala, Teller of Tales, is based on a multi-talented, 'feisty' Samoan woman, Lauli'i Willis, who was one of the few who could put Stevenson in his place.