6 Jun 2016

Pacific visit an 'eye-opener' for Bennett

7:23 pm on 6 June 2016

Visiting small island states affected by sea-level rises has been a reality check, Climate Change Minister Paula Bennett says.

A Tuvalu beach being eroded by a storm.

A Tuvalu beach being eroded by a storm. Photo: SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY

The minister was part of the annual Pacific Mission, led by Foreign Minister Murray McCully.

The mission visited Papua New Guinea, Vanuatu, Kiribati and Tuvalu.

Mrs Bennett said climate change was a big topic everywhere she went, and seeing for herself the problems the Pacific Island nations were facing was an eye-opener.

Paula Bennett (R) talks to members of Tuvalu cabinet.

Paula Bennett, right, talks to members of Tuvalu's cabinet. Photo: RNZ / Chris Bramwell

"I think this has been a dose of reality, that you can read about it, you can hear the stories, but when you're faced with it in reality, it is incredibly stark."

Mrs Bennett said she did not think all the problems the islands were experiencing were due to climate change, but it was definitely one of the factors.

Mr McCully said despite what some international commentators said about people on Kiribati and Tuvalu wanting to leave their countries because of climate change, most of the people there wanted to stay.

It was important to try to help those people live more sustainably, which was how New Zealand was targeting its aid to the region, he said.