Sanjesh Narayan in the Cook Islands
February 8, 2024
The New Zealand government will provide $16.5 million to the Cook Islands to address and manage the challenges posed by Climate Change.
New Zealand’s Foreign Minister Winston Peters, who is currently in Rarotonga with Pacific Peoples Minister Dr Shane Reti and an official delegation made the announcement following a meeting with Cook Islands Prime Minister Mark Brown.
He said that his government will strengthen the existing cooperation with the Cook Islands on the Climate Change crisis.
Funding for effective projects
“New Zealand is supporting the Cook Islands with $16.5 million in funding to respond more effectively to the increasing impacts of climate change. This funding will go to projects, agreed with the Cook Islands, on issues such as renewable energy, cycle shelter upgrades, battery replacements and water security,” he said.
Mr Peters said that he had extensive discussions with Mr Brown and that the talks reaffirmed the special relationship that exists between the two countries.
Editor’s Note: The Cook Islands is in free association with New Zealand. Since 2001, the Cook Islands has directed its own foreign and defence policy, though it has no armed forces and therefore relies on New Zealand for its defence. In recent decades, the Cook Islands has adopted an increasingly assertive foreign policy, and Henry Puna, former Prime Minister, currently serves as Secretary General of the Pacific Islands Forum. Most Cook Islanders are citizens of New Zealand, but they also have the status of Cook Islands nationals, which is not given to other New Zealand citizens. The Cook Islands has been an active member of the Pacific Community since 1980.
India’s High Commissioner to New Zealand Neeta Bhushan is the Accredited (Non-Resident) High Commissioner and Plenipotentiary to the Cook Islands and Samoa.
Mr Peters said that New Zealand and the Cook Islands are committed to continuing to respond together to the complex and varied challenges facing the region, as well as finding areas and opportunities for bilateral cooperation.
Closer ties with Tonga
Mr Peters and Dr Reti met Tonga’s Acting Prime Minister (and Deputy Prime Minister) Samiu Vaipulu in Nuku’alofa, the Tongan Capital.
Mr Vaipulu said that relations between Tonga and New Zealand were based on ‘trusted friendship’ and noted areas and plans of action.
“A trusted friendship is bound by cultural and ancestral links through our Polynesian heritage connected by the Blue Continent. The two governments will look into mutually agreed priority areas such as Climate Change, strengthening economic development, law and justice and education,” he said.
Addressing a press conference, Mr Peters said that as a part of the Blue Continent, New Zealanders need to understand that the future of the Pacific Islands and the people of Tonga are critical for the future.
“Parts of New Zealand can understand that we know where they live. But many more people should understand that we are putting money here because it is a serious, wise investment for the long-term security and profitability of the part of the world in which we live. We are not here by accident,” he said.
Mr Vaipulu told the media that New Zealand is assisting in the construction of the new Tongan Parliament building and supporting the second communication cable for Tonga.
“We have requested Mr Peters for support in the construction of a new Court House,” he said and added that Tonga is preparing to host the Summit of the Leaders of the Pacific Islands Forum in August.
Mr Peters said that his visit to Tonga, the Cook Islands and Samoa along with Dr Reti this week reaffirms the importance of New Zealand’s connections to the Pacific.
“New Zealand enjoys strong and long-standing relationships with our Pacific partners, especially in Polynesia, where we have close political, economic, and people-to-people ties. This trip is an opportunity for New Zealand to continue to strengthen and progress our bilateral cooperation with Tonga, Cook Islands, and Samoa while supporting each country’s respective development goals,” he said.
Mr Peters said that given New Zealand’s place and influence in the region, his visit will also reinforce New Zealand’s commitment to collectively responding to the many and varied strategic issues and challenges facing the Pacific and the wider Indo-Pacific.
Dr Reti said that New Zealand has deep and longstanding cultural links with the Cook Islands, Samoa and Tonga.
“I am looking forward to reinforcing those, as well as discussing the shared issues our communities face in New Zealand and the Pacific, particularly in health,” he said.
Sanjesh Narayan is a Reporter at Radio Tarana. He is travelling in the Pacific Island countries as a part of the media delegation of Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Winston Peters and writes for Indian Newslink as a part of our agreement with Radio Tarana.