20 Mar 2020

Pacific to suffer under NZ's border ban - academic

7:24 am on 20 March 2020

New Zealand's closing of its borders will make life difficult for the Pacific, says an academic.

Passengers arrrive at Auckland Airport Monday 16 March

Photo: RNZ / Dan Cook

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said last night the ban imposed on non-citizens or permanent residents will not exclude the Pacific.

The director of Massey University's Pasifika Centre, Malakai Koloamatangi, said people's health had to come first, but the decision would impact vulnerable communities already affected from climate change.

"I'm confident that the Pacific Islands will cope, but it'll be very, very difficult."

Dr Koloamatangi said Pacific people are resilient and were already moving to cancel big gatherings such as weddings and funerals to curb the spread of Covid-19.

He said those in the region may be facing reduced remittances payments from family in New Zealand who would be suffering due to Covid-19.

"It remains to be seen how well these communities back in the islands cope when their lifeline is being severed and no money is flowing to the islands."

Fala Haulangi, a Tuvaluan community leader in Auckland, said Tuvaluan workers in New Zealand under the Recognised Seasonal Worker Scheme should be allowed to stay.

"I will definitely be asking (the government) to look at that in extending those workers visas to carry on working here because by the time they leave, then they won't be able to come back because we don't know how long this thing's going to go on for."

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