Polynesian Programme gets $30 million boost from New Zealand

Sanjesh Narayan

Sanjesh Narayan

From Apia, Samoa, February 9, 2024

And an additional $15.2 million to the Secretariat of the Regional Environment Programme

New Zealand’s Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Winston Peters and Pacific Peoples and Health Minister Dr Shane Reti with the Samoan Head of State Tuimaleali’ifano Va’aleto’a Sualauvi II in Apia on February 9, 2024 (Photo by Sanjesh Narayan)

New Zealand has pledged $30 million towards the second phase of the Polynesian Health Corridors Programme (PHC).

The funding will be over five years and distributed to the Cook Islands, Niue, Samoa, Tokelau, Tonga and Tuvalu.

New Zealand’s Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Winston Peters announced the funding at a meeting held at the National University of Samoa (NUS) in Apia, the Capital of Samoa on Friday, February 9, 2024.

He described the funding as ‘an ambitious step forward’ to increase the number of capable and confident health professionals and achieve better health outcomes for Samoans.

Mr Peters was on the final leg of his five-day tour of the South Pacific which took him to Tonga, the Cook Islands and Samoa, with Pacific Peoples Minister Dr Shane Rati, officials from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade and a media delegation.

Commitment to better outcomes

Speaking at the University, Mr Peters said that the funding reaffirmed New Zealand’s commitment to supporting recipient countries’ efforts to strengthen their health systems.

“Health services and programmes in the Pacific were severely impacted during the Covid-19 pandemic, and New Zealand is continuing to find ways to collaborate in the region to address the most pressing health challenges. The PHC Programme has been a key platform for supporting our Polynesian partners to improve health outcomes and make progress towards their health goals,” he said.

The PHC Programme is funded through New Zealand’s International Development Cooperation Programme and delivered by the Public Health Agency of the Health Ministry (Dr Reti is also New Zealand’s Minister of Health). It supports the health initiatives of the Cook Islands, Niue, Samoa, Tokelau, Tonga and Tuvalu.

Dr Reti said that during the past four days, he has had opportunities to discuss the impact of the PHC Programme in the Cook Islands, Tonga and Samoa.

“We look forward to the next phase of the programme, which will include a focus on health security, non-communicable diseases, especially mental health and cancer control, and access to essential medicines,” he said.

Mr Peters and Dr Reti later discussed educational and development opportunities to improve health services with Samoa’s Health and Education Ministers.

Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Winston Peters addressing the media with Samoan Prime Minister Fiame Moana Mata’afa in Apia on February 9, 2024 (Photo by Sanjesh Narayan)

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Statement of Partnership with Samoa

Mr Peters and Dr Reti held a meeting with Samoa’s Prime Minister Fiame Naomi Mata’afa, during which Mr Peters signed a renewed Statement of Partnership, reaffirming ‘the unique bond’ between the two countries.

“New Zealand and Samoa are like-minded countries that share a very warm and close relationship. We enjoy close cooperation on bilateral, regional and global issues. This Statement of Partnership sets out the priority areas for our cooperation over the next four years,” Mr Peters said.

As well as outlining the intention of the two countries to work together on issues of mutual interest such as climate change, human and economic development, and responding to an increasingly complex security environment, the Statement reiterates New Zealand’s commitment to support Samoa to deliver a successful Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting later this year.

Dr Reti said that New Zealand and Samoa share a warm and long-standing relationship based on close historical, cultural, and people-to-people links.

Financial Assistance to SPREP

New Zealand has also committed additional funding of $15.2 million over three years to the Secretariat of the Regional Environment Programme (SPREP) based in Apia.

Mr Peters met with SPREP Director-General Sefanaia Nawadra, after which he released the funding statement.

“New Zealand is pleased to confirm the additional support to help SPREP strengthen the crucial role it plays in providing advice and support in the Pacific. SPREP is focused on building Pacific resilience to the serious threats posed by climate change, and New Zealand’s investment will ensure that we are able to continue to prioritise this,” he said.

Mr Peters said that the funding was a significant contribution to support the collective efforts in combating the impact of the triple challenges of climate change, biodiversity loss, and pollution on Pacific people and communities.

Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Winston Peters signing a renewed Statement of Partnership with Samoa, watched by Pacific Peoples and Health Minister Dr Shane Reti in Apia on February 9, 2024 (Photo by Sanjesh Narayan)

About SPREP

SPREP was established in 1993 to support cooperation and coordination on environmental matters in the region. Established by the governments and administrations of the Pacific, it is responsible for protecting and managing the environment and natural resources of the Pacific.

As well its headquarters in Apia, SPREP has offices in Fiji, Marshalls Islands and Vanuatu.

It has a complement of 150 staff recruited from around the Pacific region and other countries and has an annual budget of US$ 35 million.

The SPREP website claimed that its establishment more than 30 years ago, ‘sends a clear signal to the global community of the deep commitment of Pacific Island governments and administrations for better management of the environment within the context of sustainable development.’

“The strategic direction for SPREP is set out in the 2017-2026 SPREP Strategic Plan. The Plan outlines the mandate, vision and programmes for the organisation, and places a strong emphasis on effective delivery of services to SPREP Member countries and territories,” it said.

Mr Peters, Dr Reti and their delegation returned to New Zealand on Friday (February 9).

Sanjesh Narayan is a Reporter at Radio Tarana. He travelled 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.

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