29 Oct 2018

'The days of treating you as pests are over'

4:01 pm on 29 October 2018

The Foreign Affairs Minister has committed $70 million to non-government organisations working in the Pacific to try and build up aid and development locally.

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Photo: RNZ / Jo Moir

It's part of Winston Peters' Pacific reset outlined in the Budget earlier this year and focuses on moving away from a reliance on international organisations.

Mr Peters announced $714 million over four years in Official Development Assistance as part of the May Budget and at an International Development Conference in Wellington today he explained what the reset means for international NGOs.

He wants taxpayers to stop seeing the Pacific through a "negative lens" and said there are huge expectations on NGOs to deliver.

He told those at the conference that "the days of treating you as pests are over''.

Mr Peters stressed the Pacific reset didn't mean every NGO would receive more funding but those who encouraged Pacific countries to start to help themselves would benefit.

The Cook Islands is bordering on becoming a developed country but its deputy prime minister Mark Brown said it's still dependent on New Zealand aid.

Mr Brown, who joined Mr Peters to speak at the conference, said the standard of living in the Cook Islands was vastly different from one island to the next.

He said relationships with New Zealand and Australia were crucial even as economic growth improves in the Cook Islands.

"The geopolitical landscape within the Pacific region has changed significantly in recent years. Alliances are being formed, partnerships are being tested and relationships are changing.''

While the boost to the aid fund has stopped the declining trend of New Zealand's overseas relief efforts, Mr Peters said the Pacific is in our DNA and the committment is a long-term one.

"This is not a submission to (Finance Minister) Grant Robertson, but if you're talking to him let him know we've got our sights on something better than we're getting now and we need it not just because it's convenient but because our region needs it,'' Mr Peters said.