Some forty parliamentarians from around the Pacific region visited Auckland last week ahead of the Pacific Parliamentarians’ Forum in Wellington.
New Zealand has historic links and strong, abiding relationships with many Pacific Island Countries and Auckland is well known as the world’s largest Polynesian city. Though this was the second time that the event was held in the country following the inaugural one in 2013, it was the first time that the group visited Auckland.
The visiting parliamentarians were keen to know how their fellow country people were faring in this country. New Zealand parliamentarians of Pacific Island heritage accompanied them around to meet people of their respective island countries living in Auckland.
As part of the Auckland itinerary, seven of the parliamentarians visited the Pacific Trade & Invest (PT&I) offices to learn about the role that PT&I plays in helping products from the islands to find markets in New Zealand as well as to help investment back into the islands. New Zealand MP Carmel Sepuloni accompanied the visitors along with officials of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs & Trade (MFAT).
PT&I Trade Commissioner Michael Greenslade introduced the visitors to PT&I’s activities with an audio-visual presentation followed by introductions to PT&I Auckland team members. The parliamentarians were briefed about PT&I’s specific trade and investment promotion initiatives in their countries.
Susan Lamb, Australian MP from the Brisbane area, asked about specific successes of these initiatives. The PT&I team shared details of some of the recent successes like the supply chain programme in Tonga under the PT&I ‘Deal by Technology’ initiative, the successful agribusiness investment on Tanna Island in Vanuatu and other initiatives in Niue as well as PT&I’s export capability building programmes around the region under the PT&I Path to Market initiative.
The visiting MPs were also briefed about PT&I’s ongoing internship programme that was beginning to pay dividends with past interns contributing to exports from their home countries after gaining experience and knowledge of the New Zealand markets during their internships here. PT&I has hosted interns from Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands, the Marshall Islands and currently from the autonomous region of Bougainville.
New Zealand MP Carmel Sepuloni initiated a brief discussion around issues around the export of fresh produce from around the islands into the country.
The leaders’ Auckland visit, which also included many other meetings, concluded with a cocktail event at the University of Auckland’s Fale Pasifika. Pacific Cooperation Foundation Chairman Peter Kiely, also a PT&I Advisory Board member, said the Pacific Parliamentary Forum gave a chance to New Zealand MPs to interact at a high level with the guests from around the Pacific.
“This is their chance to interact – it’s normally restricted to just New Zealand’s current leaders … this interaction brings it to a level for today and tomorrow’s leaders,” Mr Kiely said.
New Zealand based Pacific Members of Parliament Alfred Ngaro (Te Atatu), who is also the Chairman of the sub-committee responsible for the Forum, Jenny Salesa (Manukau East), Su’a William Sio and Carmel Sepuloni had been heavily involved in the leaders’ visit.