Tuvalu opens High Commission in New Zealand
Tuvalu's Prime Minister says he expects his country, and Tuvaluans living in New Zealand, to benefit significantly from the opening of a High Commission.
Tuvalu's Prime Minister says he expects his country, and Tuvaluans living in New Zealand, to benefit significantly from the opening of a High Commission in Wellington.
Enele Sopoaga says opening a full diplomatic post in New Zealand is something Tuvalu has been working towards for over 30 years, and this week, that aspiration has become a reality.
Jamie Tahana went along.
On Tuesday, dozens of dignitaries and members of Wellington's Tuvaluan community crammed into a small office in a central city high-rise to see Prime Minister Enele Sopoaga cut the ribbon to open Tuvalu's new High Commission.
The man who will occupy the space between the white walls adorned with woven mats is High Commissioner-designate, Samuelu Laloniu, who comes to the role after serving as Tuvalu's consul-general in Auckland.
Mr Laloniu says the opening of a High Commission in New Zealand is something Tuvalu has hoped to achieve since gaining independence in 1978.
SAMUELU LALONIU: We have been planning for quite a very long time, but resources has constrained that from happening. But finally, after 30 years, this milestone has finally been reached, so this is huge.
Tuvalu's foreign minister, Taukelina Finikaso, says the opening is a significant occasion for his country, something he hopes will help forge closer ties with New Zealand.
TAUKELINA FINIKASO: It is a big event in Tuvalu because we feel that by opening our High Commission here, we want to get closer to New Zealand in order to work together with the government of New Zealand and hopefully in doing that we will get more assistance in a way of trying to develop Tuvalu.
New Zealand's foreign minister, Murray McCully, says the countries are already incredibly close, pointing to a New Zealand-funded scheme to convert all power generation on Tuvalu's islands to renewable energy. But he says with improved machinery to arrange such projects, he expects the relationship between the two to get closer.
MURRAY MCCULLY: It's an important milestone in the relationship between New Zealand and Tuvalu, it reflects growing amount of business that we have to transact. So yeah, look, it'll make a difference to our ability to do business together, Tuvalu's quite a difficult place to get to and anything that makes it easier for the two governments to transact business has got to be good.
Tuvalu's Prime Minister, Enele Sopoaga, says beyond diplomacy, the High Commission will work to enhance engagement with New Zealand's significant Tuvaluan community. Mr Sopoaga says one of its main priorities will be to work to gain more benefits and access for Tuvaluans in New Zealand, and maintain their connections with Tuvalu.
ENELE SOPOAGA: We have almost 5000 Tuvaluans in New Zealand, and it's a big number. It's almost like more than 50 percent of the total population. So you've got to deal with this, you've got to accept that these are Tuvaluans. They have family connections back home, they still have property back home and who knows? Maybe one day they will want to come back and invest in Tuvalu.
Enele Sopoaga says it would be good to see New Zealand open a High Commission on Funafuti, as its High Commissioner to Tuvalu is currently based in Wellington.
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