NZ opposition call to refocus on Pacific's needs
New Zealand's opposition spokesperson for Pacific Island Affairs calls for government to focus more on the real needs of Pacific community domestically and internationally.
The New Zealand opposition spokesperson for Pacific Island Affairs says there is a need for the government to listen more to the needs of island countries in the Pacific region.
Su'a William Sio also says that the government is failing Pacific Islanders in this country.
He says a recent 9% funding cut in the Pacific Islands Affairs Ministry will significantly undermine efforts to stem growing unemployment and poverty among New Zealand's Pacific Islands community.
Su'a told Johnny Blades that New Zealand has an important role to play in the Pacific islands, but that it must become more focussed to strengthen that role.
SU'A WILLIAM SIO: It's such a big region with so many problems. And we ourselves are just a small nation. Despite the fact that we punch above our weight, we've got limited resources. So we do have to focus on the areas where we think we can make a bigger difference. And I think part of this is about us listening better to what the issues are in the region from their perspective, and then trying to see where we can make the greatest difference.
JOHNNY BLADES: Do you think, in terms of the big common issues for us in the island countries, that the role of the Pacific islands forum is becoming obsolete in terms of being able to address those issues?
SWS: No, I don't believe that. I think one of the biggest issues that concerns all of us is the environment - climate change and the impact on the region. It's a huge resource in terms of fishing. But there's going to be some direct impact on some smaller islands - Tuvalu, Kiribati. And the big issue is what happens to those people, you know? Are we prepared for taking on the people once those islands are fully immersed by sea-water? So I don't think it's obsolete. If anything, I think this is the time where our voice has to be stronger and be more united, particularly around the issue of climate change and environmental matters.
JB: What are you doing to improve the lives of Pacific communities in New Zealand?
SWS: As the opposition, we hold the government to account. We've been calling for job creation, higher incomes, we support the living wage. And it's part of our role, listening to the community, certainly developing our policies for the future when we do become government. And we're going to be targetting the issues that not only benefit Pacific communities, but benefit all of New Zealand. Because the belief is if the Pacific are successful, New Zealand will succeed.
JB: The government doesn't seem strongly engaged on that front, on really improving the lives of our Pacific communities.
SWS: Absolutely. And that's how we see it. It's certainly how the Pacific community in New Zealand see it. They see that this government is more focussed on big business, on their mates, and have very little regard for the ordinary hard-working kiwi, which includes a huge Pacific population in New Zealand.
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