17 Sep 2015

NZ minister takes a hands-off approach to climate victims

5:07 pm on 17 September 2015

New Zealand's immigration minister has indicated the government has no plans to allow relocation of Pacific peoples displaced by climate change.

Michael Woodhouse, National MP.

New Zealand Immigration Minister Michael Woodhouse. Photo: RNZ / Alexander Robertson

Defending his government's policies on climate change in parliament, Michael Woodhouse said that the government is making a significant contribution towards greenhouse gas mitigation, and helping Pacific Island countries through aid.

He said Pacific Islanders want to stay in their own countries and that to suggest they want to dash to New Zealand to be saved is a form of colonial paternalism.

Asked if New Zealand has a responsibility to Pacific peoples displaced by climate change, Mr Woodhouse emphasised mitigation and adaptation efforts, distancing his government from relocation responses in the near future.

"Mister Speaker I certainly wouldn't be giving that sort of paternalistic, colonialist, white person's guilt response to it. I am not going to apologise for this country's response now. And I'm confident that future governments will appropriately respond in the future."

An i-Kiribati man, Ioane Teitiota, has been fighting deportation since 2011 arguing that he, his wife, and their three New Zealand-born children will face rising sea levels, extreme weather and crop destruction as a result of global warming if they are forced back to Kiribati.

Mr Teitiota is being held by Immigration New Zealand which says it will put him on the next available flight.

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