19 Jun 2013

Maori 'highly respected' by Bougainville leaders

6:37 am on 19 June 2013

A Maori consultancy firm helping to develop an autonomous region of Papua New Guinea says Maori are highly respected by political leaders in Bougainville.

Tuia International has an office in the provincial capital of Buka where it is giving the Autonomous Bougainville Government advice on writing its legislative policies and expanding its economic potential.

Director Mike Taitoko said Maori have been forging some great relationships with Papua New Guinean and Bougainvillian government officials for quite some time - and they respect the political status that Maori have in New Zealand.

He said Maori are hugely respected in that area of the Pacific because New Zealand took part in peacekeeping campaigns and negotiations during and after the political crisis in 1996 and 1997.

New Zealand eventually brokered a peace agreement between Bougainville leaders and the central Papua New Guinea government in 2000, which led to the establishment of the Autonomous Region of Bougainville.

Mr Taitoko said Bougainville political leaders have a good grasp of New Zealand's economy and how Maori are playing a big part in it. He says there is a high level of respect for the way Maori carry out their business and their participation at political levels.

There are plans to hold a referendum for Bougainvilleans to choose whether they still want to be an autonomous region of Papua New Guinea or become independent.