The New Zealand Pacific Heads of Mission breakfast in Auckland always brings a great opportunity for everyone with an interest in the Pacific region to meet with New Zealand’s envoys in island nations.
This year’s breakfast was held last week at the Viaduct Events Centre. In a welcome change this year an opportunity to meet with the envoys individually in a one-on-one meeting format was introduced for those who registered for the few available slots after the breakfast.
The Pacific Trade & Invest (PT&I) Auckland team met with Mark Ramsden, High Commissioners to Fiji and Ross Ardern, High Commissioner to Niue and Karena Lyons who will soon take up her new position of Consul-General in Hawaii. The team heard first-hand their views on the economy and business opportunities in the two countries.
Mr Ramsden said New Zealand had a strong interest in growing Fiji’s economy. The services sector was growing at an impressive 20 per cent partly fuelled by an increased influx of tourists from New Zealand. Arrivals from Australia seemed to be flatlining these past quarters. He also said the liberal air services agreement between New Zealand and Fiji as well as the introduction of larger, newer planes was spurring this growth.
Concluding PACER Plus early would help trade between the two countries further, he said. The garment industry in Fiji, which is already a good story had the potential to grow impressively. Fiji needed to improve the mechanics of trade with better documentation and generally better export readiness, he said.
PT&I has been involved in initiatives aimed at such improvements through its programmes like Path to Market not only in Fiji but also several other island nations.
Speaking on how Fiji could serve even better as a growth engine for the region, Mr Ramsden said stronger air links with Kiribati could open doors for a whole new opportunity in produce exports to the atoll nation, which is agriculturally challenged because of its mainly sandy soil.
A deal like PACER Plus would also help iron out issues around repatriation, he said. He expressed satisfaction that the New Zealand and Fiji Governments were renegotiating the double tax avoidance treaty. Mr Ramsden said much opportunities lay in collaborations between Maori Iwi businesses and Fijian businesses including indigenous enterprises, which the latter could learn from successful Maori enterprises from New Zealand.
Mr Ardern outlined some of significant new business and investment initiatives in Niue. A newly completed primary school and the new $10million conference centre were recent and ongoing infrastructure projects in the tiny nation of 1500 residents. Other significant infrastructure soon to get under way are a waste management project that is on tender and a new $2milion chancery.
The conference centre at the Matavai Resort is expected to boost tourist numbers especially in the ‘shoulder’ season, Mr Ardern said. The addition of a second flight from New Zealand from March would add to passenger capacity, he said.
Among private sector initiatives are a new water bottling plant with a capacity to export 40 containers a month which is also on the anvil, an upgrade of the telecom equipment on the island and a firming up the plan around the bee sanctuary that has stirred much international interest particularly in the midst of the worldwide honey bee crisis, which has received much global media attention in recent years.
Investment in solar photovoltaic technology was growing, he said. Generation from solar PV is on track to go up to 40 per cent from the present 13 per cent with an investment upwards of $5million, he said. The Niue Chamber of Commerce was being revitalised and a new Business Development Manager was being appointed, Mr Ardern said.
Ms Lyons said she looked forward to working closely with PT&I especially with projects like Path to Market export readiness programmes that were popular in the Northern Pacific Islands region, which Ms Lyons will be accredited to.
For more information email PT&I Marketing & Commuincations Manager Dev Nadkarni at email@example.com