12 Feb 2024

Pacific news in brief for February 12

5:27 pm on 12 February 2024
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Photo: 123RF

New Zealand/Pacific - visas

New Zealand's Foreign Minister says giving jobs to overstayers shuts the door to those who want to come into the country legally.

Winston Peters said the control and the request for seasonal workers to return home was all part of the Samoa commitment in the arrangement, which he says is the only way to go.

Peters said employing overstayers sounds plausible, until one realises New Zealand inherited 128,000 new people in one year - to the end of October 2023.

Samoa's PM, Fiame Naomi Mata'afa said the scheme is seasonal and circular, meaning people go and come back - whereas those who have overstayed have a different set of circumstances.

She said the NZ government has to address overstayers.

New Zealand/Cook Islands - deep sea mining

New Zealand's foreign minister Winston Peters says people should give the Cook Islands freedom to investigate deep sea mining before criticising.

The Cook Islands are exploring the idea in the country, to see if it can be done without causing serious environmental harm.

Peters said outsiders who have "never put a cent behind the Cook Islands" are the ones who are critical.

He said deep sea mining is seriously worth looking at.

Papua New Guinea - refugees

55 refugees and their families abandoned in Papua New Guinea are facing homelessness and starvation as they beg for help from the Australian government.

A spokesperson for the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre, Jana Favero said the safety of the refugees and their families is at risk and action is needed.

She said Canberra's alleged non-payment of bills to PNG humanitarian services has led to the refugees being cut off from basic living necessities.

The pleas for urgent evacuation.

Fiji - custody

Several men are in custody in Fiji after substances believed to be drugs were seized in separate busts.

Police have seized several ziplock bags containing white crystals - thought to be methamphetamine - and cash believed to be from the proceeds of crime.

FBC reports two men were also found with white powder believed to be cocaine, as well as a substance likely to be meth.

Fiji Police Force appealing to members of the public to refrain from using methamphetamine because of the high health risks associated with the drug currently circulating in the country, which can also result in the loss of life.

Solomon Islands - policy

Solomon Islands' Ministry of Rural Development is working on a new policy for the nation's indigenous people.

The government said the overarching aim is exclusively to protect and promote the rights of indigenous Solomon Islanders.

Permanent Secretary Dr Samson Viulu said he wants to work with indigenous communities to formulate policy.

He said there are simply not enough economic opportunities for indigenous people.

Samoa - mission

The US Coast Guard Cutter, Harriet Lane, has started its inaugural Blue Pacific mission in Samoa.

The crew of Harriet Lane is working closely with local authorities to bolster Samoa's maritime law enforcement capabilities, strengthen community connections and provide regional support.

The ship has helped combat illegal fishing, drug trafficking, and smuggling.

Members of the US Coast Guard Band visited schools, a rest home and the prison over the course of three days as part of its cultural exchange, sharing a flavour of music from around the world while also featuring the famous Samoan song "Pitonuu Solosolo."

An official with the US Embassy, Noriko Horiuchi, said "engagements like the visit of the Harriet Lane strengthens our bonds and friendship, promoting safer seas and a sustainable maritime future."

France/Pacific - minister

France has appointed a new "delegate minister" for overseas who will work under French Home Affairs and Overseas minister Gérald Darmanin.

Marie Guévenoux, who is aged 47, replaces Philippe Vigier, who had been appointed to the position five months ago.

Vigier, during his five-month tenure, has not dealt with French Pacific issues.

Darmanin, as senior minister in charge of overseas, has visited New Caledonia half a dozen times over the past twelve months and has confirmed he will travel there again this month.

France is planning to table a Constitutional amendment regarding New Caledonia's electoral roll eligibility conditions.

Vanuatu - crash

A Vanuatu pilot has been fired following investigation into a crash at Sola Airport last month.

The Vanuatu Daily Post reports the chief executive of Air Taxi, Julia Johnstone saying the Civil Aviation Authority conducted an inspection the day after the incident.

She confirmed the termination of the pilot who was on duty at the time of the crash, and said the plane was badly damaged.

Johnstone said the cause of the incident remains unknown.

Samoa - whistleblower

The Samoa District Court has allowed a so-called whistleblower to be isolated from other inmates at Tamumalala prison because of threats to his life.

Prosecutor Leinafo Taimalelagi-Strickland said it is alleged the threats were linked to the man's apparent role as an informant in previous drug-related cases - which police have said is not the case.

The court was told the juvenile wing had been cleared for the prisoner.

His bail hearing has been set for this week.

Samoa - species

The Samoa Conservation Society says confirmed sightings of three new species of seabirds on the main island of Upolu over the past year has significantly increased the country's native biodiversity.

The society said this raises the possibility the birds may be breeding on Upolu.

It said a tropical shearwater was found at Malololelei last February, and a wedge-tailed shearwater in September, and confirmed the presence of Tahiti petrels on Upolu.

The Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme is working in partnership with the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment, and the Samoa Conservation Society, to learn more about Samoa's seabird biodiversity and how it can be protected.