16 Oct 2008

National pledges to keep Pacific Affairs Ministry

12:53 pm on 16 October 2008

The National Party has pledged to keep the Ministry of Pacific Island Affairs, easing community fears it might be axed or merged with another Government department.

But Pacific Affairs spokesperson Judith Collins told the New Zealand Pacific Business Council in South Auckland on Wednesday night the ministry would have to provide better policy advice to other departments.

Ms Collins says National would push health programmes for Pacific Islanders and education - particularly in the early childhood sector including language nests.

She also says the ministry could have a greater role to play in the region, as her party would be refocussing aid money to Pacific countries instead of around the world.

National's Foreign Affairs spokesman John Hayes also believes New Zealand's Pacific policy needs a rethink and says National would use aid money differently.

He said too much of the $420 million aid budget is being spent outside the region.

Labour dismissed the announcements as an afterthought offering little that is new.

Pacific affairs spokesperson Luamanuvao Winnie Laban said National is retaining many of Labour's existing policies such as Working For Families and paid parental leave, which have made a difference to Pacific peoples.