Ardern’s Pacific ‘reset’ tour

A month ago Jacinda Ardern went on a tour of Samoa, Niue, Tonga and Rarotonga in the nearby South Pacific, in what was promoted as ‘a reset’ with Pacific island relations.

Newsroom previewed the tour: Ardern leads ‘Pacific Reset’ tour

A “Pacific reset” for New Zealand’s foreign policy is on the way, with Jacinda Ardern leading a delegation around the Pacific this week to hear about the big issues facing the countries.

Ardern’s first foreign policy speech last week focused more on the Pacific than any other part of the world, as she spoke of New Zealand’s long and well-established ties, as well as its duty to act on the threat of climate change in the region.

“We can do better, and we will.”

It was followed up by Peters’ pledge for a “Pacific reset” in a major speech of his own in Sydney.

He outlined the Government’s view of a shared Pacific destiny, speaking of increased aid and “back to basics diplomacy”.

That diplomacy starts this week, with Ardern, Peters and a bevy of ministers and MPs heading around Samoa, Tonga, Niue and the Cook Islands for the annual Pacific mission.

This push for greater engagement appears to come from a genuine passion for the Pacific from the Government, and what it sees as an opportunity to improve on its predecessor’s performance.

veutoviper has posted a useful summary of this tour at The Standard, as reported by Stuff’s Henry Cooke. This illustrates good diplomacy and foreign relations, and also good reporting.


Here are links to all ten of the articles Henry Cooke did as he accompanied the five day Parliamentary Mission to the Pacific which were published progressively by Stuff on their website over that timeframe. In sequence, these ten articles by Henry Cooke were:

1. A preliminary scene-setting one written before the visit started, detailing the bigger picture issues relevant to the relationships etc between NZ and the Pacific islands, and anticipated achievements from the trip:

2. An article specifically on climate change and its effects on Samoa, speeches given by our PM and Climate Change Minister James Shaw to an audience of Samoan MPs and officials at a climate change luncheon, and their visits to local spots showing the effects of climate change:

3. Another article specifically on the donations to Samoa announced by the PM of $3 million more in disaster recovery aid and $6.5m in development funds for small businesses run by women and young people:

4. A final article on Samoa on the hospitality and celebrations that took place; climate change; and the aid announcements:

5. and 6. Two articles on the one day visit to Niue – One on the aid assistance announced, which included $5m for another solar panels farm to help Niue reach their goal of 80% renewable energy by 2025; and the second a lighter one focusing in part on the PM’s reunion with her family in Niue:

7. One article on Tonga covering aid including emergency relief for the cyclone Gita damage and the visit itself, which included the delegation seeing this damage first hand:

8. and 9. Two articles on the visit to the Cook Islands – One specifically on the biggest announcement of the whole trip on the relaxation of the rules for the payment of NZ Superannuation to Niueans, Cook Islanders and Tokelauans, and the other on the very colourful and friendly visit itself, but which also includes further discussion on the relaxed NZ Super rules:

10. And finally, Henry Cooke’s wrap up article summarizing what was achieved by the visit itself, and also looking at the bigger, longer term issues:

Cooke’s summary:

As Ardern was quick to point out in her final media stand-up of the trip, this was still in many ways a listening and promising tour, not a delivery one, other than with the pension changes. As with many things in this Government, the real record will be in the delivery.

So how will that delivery look? A lot more investment instead of aid, as the leaders kept talking about. A managed transition out of developed nation status for the Cook Islands. A proper change in climate change policy.

Peters also motioned towards the biosecurity problems that stop us importing much fruit from these islands, which he said was put in the “too hard basket” and needs to be fixed. The metaphor is apt: plenty of the problems the Pacific faces have been chucked into the too-hard basket. For this reset to work the whole thing is going to have to be emptied out.

 

 

Ardern’s positive ‘Pacific reset’ tour

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, along with Minister of Foreign Affairs Winston Peters, have been on a tour of Pacific Islands this week. This is an annual tour, but this year Ardern says the aim is ‘a Pacific reset’.

As well as good PR for Ardern with a daily dose of ‘photo opportunities’, this looks like positive engagement with New Zealand’s Pacific neighbours.

RNZ (Monday):  PM’s Pacific tour begins ‘Pacific reset’

The government has kicked off what it calls the “Pacific reset”, with Jacinda Ardern beginning her first trip to the region as Prime Minister.

It comes after Foreign Minister Winston Peters promised to boost aid and embark on a new strategy with New Zealand’s Pacific neighbours.

Mr Peters will accompany Ms Ardern for the week-long trip, which will stop in Samoa, Niue, Tonga and the Cook Islands.

It will also give the Prime Minister a chance to meet the heads of the countries one-on-one before the Pacific Islands Forum later in the year.

This year’s annual Pacific Mission will focus on recovery and resilience, especially for Tonga, which was badly hit by Cyclone Gita last month.

The Council for International Development welcomed the so-called Pacific reset.

Director of the Council for International Development, Josie Pagani, said the move “signals a massive boost of energy for our work in the Pacific”.

“Improved conditions mean greater independence for the Pacific, and that’s the ultimate goal of any aid budget.”

Last year New Zealand committed over $4 million to solar panels in Niue, greatly increasing its renewable energy generation.

Climate Change Minister James Shaw, who will also be on the trip, said New Zealand would continue to invest in green initiatives like that.

“[Winston Peters] is taking the lead on the Pacific strategy, but climate change is a central part of that strategy that is emerging,” Mr Shaw said.

“I don’t want to say we did everything wrong [because] we have a pretty good track record, but we want to build on that, and to broaden it and deepen it.”

A small business delegation will also be on the Pacific Mission trip as well as other Ministers including Carmel Sepuloni, Aupito William Sio, Fletcher Tabuteau, and National MPs Gerry Brownlee and Alfred Ngaro.

It is normal for a cross-party delegation to do the tour.

RNZ (Friday): PM’s breakneck tour a hit with islands

Jacinda Ardern has completed a whirlwind trip of the Pacific Islands, stopping in Samoa, Niue, Tonga and the Cook Islands.

It was her first trip as Prime Minister, where she took the chance to meet with all the heads of the countries.

The tone for the Pacific Mission was set by foreign minister Winston Peter’s speech last week, when he said a “Pacific reset” was needed.

Jacinda Ardern referred to this ‘reset’ several times on the trip and said it was about shifting from a donor-aid relationship to a partnership.

Money was given to Samoa and Tonga for cyclone recovery, more help is on its way for Niue’s renewable energy projects, and there’s been a shift in pension rules for Niueans and Cook Islanders.

But in the words of Mr Peters, these islands are now “attracting an increasing number of external actors and interests”.

That could mean many more trips of the like to ensure New Zealand keeps up its presence in the Pacific Islands.

Peter Dunne Speaks:

Every year the Prime Minister leads a delegation of senior politicians from all parties and business leaders on a Pacific Islands tour. This week’s Prime Ministerial visit to Samoa, Niue, Tonga and the Cook Islands is the 2018 version. Inevitably, there will be those who will dismiss such tours as little more than a junket, a description which is unfair.

Having taken part in a number of them over the years, I can confirm that they are a valuable way of strengthening our relationships with the various Pacific Island states, as well as creating mutual business and trade opportunities.

However, this year’s visits have the potential to break the mould, especially if the Government’s rhetoric of the “Pacific Reset” is to be believed.  Such a reset is certainly overdue.

The goodwill towards New Zealand, and the close bonds of connection are strong, right across the Pacific. For its part, New Zealand needs to be seen to be working closely with its Pacific partners to achieve mutual social and economic progress. New Zealand’s response to the threat climate change poses to low-lying islands and their peoples will be an early test. But, so far, the first signs from this week’s visit are that the Pacific Reset is going to be positive all round.

Newsroom (Friday): Pacific trip provides shape of challenges to come

A trip to the Pacific must be a political propagandist’s dream.

The colourful clothing, beautiful backdrops and warmth of the locals meant Jacinda Ardern’s five-day visit was almost guaranteed to be a success before she landed.

That is not to do her a disservice: Ardern made the most of her stay, greeting as many locals as she could, speaking in the native language where possible and offering both aid and assurances about the region’s importance to New Zealand.

(As a side note, those carping about a waste of taxpayer money should note both John Key and Bill English made regular trips to the Pacific and partook in their fair share of photo opportunities.)

Ardern’s deputy and Foreign Affairs Minister Winston Peters says the region is his top priority, and laid out plans for more political engagement, greater funding and a closer relationship during a “Pacific reset” speech.

Speaking to media on the final day of her visit, Ardern expressed contentment with what she and her ministers had achieved.

“I’d rate this mission highly, off the back of the fact that so many of the leaders have remarked on the repositioning that this government has focused on in the Pacific that was set out by the Minister of Foreign Affairs which says, ‘Look, actually we do a lot of work across the globe but actually our relationships here in the Pacific are key, they’re increasingly important, we need to move to a partnership’, and that has been incredibly well received wherever we’ve gone.”

Peters was even more effusive: “The Prime Minister’s being extremely modest about this trip because she’s leading it, but I’ve been on a lot of Pacific trips, this has been the most successful by a long long way.”

Talk of a partnership of equals has been well received, with good reason: as Ardern pointed out, many of the Pacific nations are longstanding democracies with sophisticated leaders, some approaching developed nation status.

Writing for the Samoa Planet, Lani Wendt Young said Ardern’s remarks about the Pacific “joining” New Zealand in this generation’s nuclear-free moment were “a tad bit condescending, considering how long Pacific Island nations and advocacy groups have been championing this issue on the world stage and in the region”.

It’s always going to be difficult to get the right balance, but Ardern should learn from this – as one of a number of leaders in the region she is not going to create a revolution on her own.

The warmth of the Pacific welcome will stay with Ardern for some time, but genuine progress may prove a higher hurdle.

It always will be, but Ardern has got off to a promising start in the Pacific.

 

 

Cyclone Gita hits Tonga

Tonga was hit by Cyclone Gita overnight. It is too soon to get an appreciation of the amount of damage but winds, heavy rain and a storm surge are likely to have been very damaging, but it is too soon to tell how devastating it has been.

RNZ:  Cyclone Gita: Houses destroyed, church ‘completely gone’

Fiji’s MetService said the category four storm was very close to being upgraded to the highest category, five.

It had already washed out building and equipment of Tonga’s met office, and Fiji weather forecasters took over issuing warnings for the region from shortly before midnight.

The storm was expected to be upgraded to a category five in the early hours of the morning.

The US Joint Typhoon Warning Centre earlier said it was hitting maximum sustained winds estimated at 233km/h.

Well-built framed homes can be damaged in category four winds, and most trees will be either snapped or uprooted and electricity and water outages could last anywhere from several days to weeks after the storm.

The local radio station is also disabled.

Check out RNZ’s live coverage here

There are reports of very high winds in the capital Nuku’alofa.

The Fiji met service reported the cyclone was 30km south south east of Tongatapu at 11pm and moving west northwest about 30km an hour away from Tonga.

Authorities have switched off the electricity for about 75,000 residents who live on the island.

The Tongan Red Cross communications advisor Poli Kefu earlier said several houses had already been destroyed in Tonga.

This story will unfold over the next day or two in Tonga, as Gita heads westwards towards (but possibly to the south of ) Fiji and then in the direction of New Caledonia. At some stage it is expected to turn south and may have some impact on New Zealand eventually.

All Blacks versus Tonga

The last pool game for the All Blacks and Tonga kicks of soon, at 8 am NZ time.

One bonus point is all New Zealand needs to guarantee topping the pool, but they are expected to win and get a four try bonus.

How they play will be scrutinised to assess whether they are looking like cup winners or not. All they have to do is get through this game with a win, some credit for improvement and not too many injuries and they will be on track to front up in the play offs.

Their quarter final opponent will be the loser of the France-Ireland on Monday morning (NZ time) – that means the All Blacks have a extra two days to recover.

Tonga have won one game, against Namibia, and with a bonus point win could come second in the pool in the unlikely event that Argentina lose against Namibia and get no bonus points.

They need to win or have a draw with a four try bonus to take over thirds place from Georgia. That’s unlikely.

Tonga will be playing for pride and will be hoping to give the All Blacks a solid workout. Any tries will be applauded.

If you tune in a few minutes before 8 you will see a rarity – a dual haka preliminary. Or should that be a duel haka?

Herald slant on Pacific reaction to ‘spying’

NZ Herald released ‘EXCLUSIVE” details about New Zealand spying on Pacific countries yesterday. Today they have a slanted article on reaction from Pacific countries.

Are they deliberately trying to justify what they have published? Or are they oblivious to their emphasis on one side of limited  response?

The headline is NZ breached our trust – Tongan PM.

First paragraph:

Leaders of Pacific nations are beginning to speak out about claims New Zealand has been keeping too close an eye on their people and one prime minister has called the move a breach of trust.

As will be shown later the Herald is seeking comment from them, which is different to “speaking out”.

Tongan Prime Minister ‘Akilisi Pohiva, who was elected last December, said he would raise the issue in his first meeting with Prime Minister John Key.

“It means New Zealand breached the trust that has been established between the two countries,” he told Radio NZ’s Checkpoint programme.

However, Mr Pohiva said if New Zealand authorities felt the information they had gathered needed to be shared with other world leaders, then that was up to them.

“Remember Tonga is small and we have nothing to hide. It may be a serious matter for superpowers.”

Headlines involve cherry picking, but “breach of trust” is part of what otherwise seems a moderate and unconcerned response once you read past the “however”.

Samoan Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi slammed the media for sensationalising the issue and supported any monitoring of his country.

“Samoa doesn’t have anything to hide. Our daily lives are an open book. We follow good governance principles of transparency and accountability,” he said.

“As the leader of this country, I maintain frank and open lines of communication with all our diplomatic connections.”

Tuilaepa acknowledged the matters of a small island nation in the Pacific probably had no significant value to the world’s top leaders.

“We are not a security risk to any small island nearby and I’m sure the phone conversations by an old matai [chief] and his son in New Zealand for a taulaga [money] envelope will not be of interest to the FBI of the great USA.”

The Herald didn’t choose ‘Samoan Prime Minister slams media sensationalising‘ for their headline.

Commentators have also pushed the idea that China’s growing influence within the Pacific – particularly in Samoa and Fiji – has a lot to do with monitoring information in the region.

Commentators “pushed the idea” while the Herald just put balanced information out there? Yeah right.  They pushed their sensationalised exclusive while seeming to grudgingly tack on some alternate reality on the end of their self justification.

Auckland University Professor of Pacific Studies Damon Salesa said there was a shift happening within the region that world leaders were starting to catch on to.

The increase in spying was in keeping with “the intensification of interest in the Pacific with the rise of China,” he said. “We should consider it disappointing we are acting this way among our closest allies but most people working in this sphere are not naive about it.”

What would be disappointing about Pacific neighbours being helped and potentially protected by New Zealand intelligence gathering?

Requests for comment from leaders from Papua New Guinea, Fiji, Tuvalu, Nauru, Kiribati, French Polynesia, Niue, Solomon Islands and the Cook Islands went unanswered last night.

So after the lead phrase “Leaders of Pacific nations are beginning to speak out ” we find out that the Herald is requesting responses but most Pacific leaders approached have chosen not to “speak out”.

– additional reporting: David Fisher

Fisher has written articles opposing intelligence gathering and ‘spying’ for yonks and was credited with the revelation articles.

David Fisher David Fisher is a senior reporter for the NZ Herald.

EXCLUSIVE: GCSB collects phone calls, emails and internet data from NZ’s closest and most vulnerable neighbours, secret papers reveal

New Zealand is “selling out” its close relations with the Pacific nations to be close with the United States, author Nicky Hager has said.

Hager, in conjunction with the New Zealand Herald and the Intercept news site, revealed today how New Zealand’s spies are targeting the entire email, phone and social media communications of the country’s closest, friendliest and most vulnerable neighbours.

So it appears that David Fisher is doing follow-ups that support his exclusive revelations, that he worked with Nicky Hager on.

Hager is well known as an ‘investigative journalist’ who opposes intelligence gathering, and who has a habit of cherry picking data (illegally gathered in this case and for his ‘Dirty Politics’ election bomb last year) to support his activist slant.

This is a shame. There’s some aspects of this that deserve public attention, but appearing to be driven by an agenda does make it appear slanted.