18 Nov 2018

NZ seeks to fund Pacific projects which help 'local people'

9:48 pm on 18 November 2018

New Zealand wants to back a different type of aid project in the Pacific and wants no part of a bidding war with big powers for influence in the region.

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Jacinda Ardern with women at Gordon's produce market in Port Moresby which has been rebuilt with $7m of New Zealand aid money. Photo: RNZ / Gyles Beckford

Foreign aid and influence peddling have been prominent in the final stages of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in Papua New Guinea.

Papua New Guinea will release a formal closing statement for the summit in coming days, Prime Minister Peter O'Neill said, as the 21-member body was unable to agree on a leaders' statement for the first time in its history. Conflicting visions for the region have made it difficult to draft a summit communique, the country's Foreign Minister Rimbink Pato told Reuters earlier.

US Vice President Mike Pence and China's leader Xi Jinping traded barbs about the issues in the 21 member forum earlier.

But Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said New Zealand was not about financing big banner projects but ones that affected individual lives.

"The kind of things we invest in are the things that local people prioritise, things that will contribute to the prosperity of local people."

She said it was up to Pacific nations how they engage with donor countries and up to the donors to decide how they wanted to work in the region.

In her final few hours in Port Moresby, Ms Ardern opened the biggest produce market in the South Pacific, which has been rebuilt with $7 million of New Zealand aid money.

She also announced another $30m of spending in PNG.

Of that $20m will go on expanding power supplies throughout the country. It will be part of a broader $1.7 billion project which includes the United States, Australia, and Japan. The other $10m will be spent on an immunisation campaign.

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From left Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, Papua New Guinea Prime Minister Peter O'Neill, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and US Vice President Mike Pence during the APEC Summit in Port Moresby. Photo: Supplied

Papua New Guinea's Foreign Minister said his country is ready to take aid and development from any country with good intentions.

Rimbink Pato said his country would not play favourites but Chinese interest was welcome. China has been a financial backer of the PNG's hosting APEC.

Mr Pato said there was not a bidding war or conflict between donor nations but interest was welcome.

"They should not leave it to Australia and New Zealand to address the concerns of the Pacific. We welcome Chinese participation, we welcome the American participation."

He said PNG would scrutinise each project and ensure that it came up to scratch and met commercial criteria.

Ms Ardern said PNG had performed well as host of APEC, and she had had no concerns about either the organisation or her own safety and comfort.

Mr Pence chose to stay in Cairns, Australia, and fly in and out for the APEC meetings.

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