1 Mar 2018

NZ to increase aid to the Pacific - Peters

9:14 pm on 1 March 2018

Foreign Minister Winston Peters is promising to boost aid to the Pacific as part of what he calls the government's Pacific reset.

NZ First leader Winston Peters

NZ First leader Winston Peters Photo: AFP

He is also hinting at an increase in baseline funding for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

In a speech to the LOWY Institute in Sydney this evening, Mr Peters said New Zealand was a Pacific country, linked by history, culture, politics, and demographics.

"In many respects the Pacific is where New Zealand matters more, wields more influence, and can have more positive impact.

"We also see a region challenged by a dizzying array of social and environmental problems and one attracting an increasing number of external actors and interests."

Much had changed in the Pacific since 2008, which was when he was last Foreign Minister under the Helen Clark-led Labour government, he said.

"It has become increasingly obvious that the perception of New Zealand by Pacific leaders is changing.

"This reflects a new generation of post-colonial Pacific leaders who are increasingly confident, independent and assertive regionally and internationally ... they are more comfortable in courting a range of external partners.

"And for all these reasons we regard it as critical for New Zealand to embark on a new, re-energized Pacific strategy."

Mr Peters said the "reset" would have two distinct strands, with the first being back-to-basics diplomacy.

The second he said was the government putting its money where its mouth was.

"However, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade has not had a budgetary increase since 2008.

"Restoring lost capacity is one of our chief goals in advancing New Zealand's foreign policy interests."

Mr Peters said New Zealand directed 60 percent of its development spending to the Pacific, but aid spending had declined in comparative terms over the past nine years.

He said that would be reversed by expanding the size of the official development assistance programme to help New Zealand's Pacific neighbours improve their resilience, and through that their autonomy.

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