30 Sep 2008

MP calls for New Zealand Parliament to put aside time to hear from Pacific counterparts

7:00 pm on 30 September 2008

A New Zealand MP has suggested Parliament set a aside a week a year to allow the politicians to build closer links with their Pacific counterparts.

National MP John Hayes, a former diplomat with strong Pacific ties, says it is vital for leaders in New Zealand to understand how important personal relationships are in Pacific countries.

He told the Pacific Co-operation Foundation's Tok Talanoa, which aimed to improve relations with Melanesia, that time around the kava bowl is not time away from real business, it is real business.

He says this is business done the Pacific way - looking for consensus, and that is why he is suggesting Parliament allocate a week a year to foster this.

"And what I would see us doing is bringing our Pacific leaders to New Zealand, then speaking on the floor of Parliament. Spending a week with all of our Parliamentarians across the whole political spectrum, sitting down, engaging with Pacific leaders, seriously talking about their issues, and us listening to what their issues are."

Former Foreign Minister in Fiji, Kaliopate Tavola, told the Tok Talanoa that a development arrangement between New Zealand and the four Melanesian countries would help bridge gaps between them.

He says while there are other schemes already in place a Melanesian New Zealand Development Arrangement would allow a refocussing on what matters.

We saw the various scenarios eh, the global scenario, the micro scenario, and the micro micro and that is what this partnership for development agreement would focus on, so that its benefits really go down to those who matter on the ground

A ni-Vanuatu man closely involved with the development of a micro financing scheme says there are several ways that New Zealand can help through its aid agency, NZAID.

John Salong, who is with the Lolihor Provincial Council, told the symposium about the progress made by the Vanwoods micro financing scheme.

He says it now has investments of tens of millions of vatu but the women, 'the mamas' who are its main users, need help improving their financial literacy.

Just so they can be able to budget, just so they can separate their household monies from their business monies. These are not small questions for them, so we need to do a little bit more of that. The other challenge we have is to get them to have enterprise development so they are continuing to grow business, so that it is not just about income generation but that they become viable micro businesses.