6 Mar 2009

New Zealand opposition says Minister personally axed funding to Pacific aid programme

10:54 am on 6 March 2009

New Zealand's opposition Labour Party says the Foreign Affairs Minister, Murray McCully, has personally intervened to cut funding of more than 960 thousand US dollars a year ($1.95 million NZ) to a Pacific aid programme.

Labour's associate foreign affairs spokesperson, Phil Twyford, says the Foundation for the Peoples of the South Pacific supports hundreds of villages in seven nations, with conflict resolution and natural resource management.

He says the move is part of a plan to dis-establish the government development agency, NZ Aid, and end its focus on poverty elimination.

Mr Twyford says the Foundation had a five-year partnership agreement with NZ Aid, which Mr McCully ended after three years without a planned review.

And he says the Suva-based Foundation is shocked and disappointed by the decision.

"This is an unprecedented level of ministerial intervention in the nitty-gritty of the aid programme. I think what it reveals is the minister's willingness to meddle politically in things that are not really his expertise."