Mayor drums up trade in the Pacific
Improving trade links between New Zealand and the Pacific Islands is at the top of mayor Len Brown's agenda on a business delegation he's leading.
He's in the Cook Islands after visiting Samoa and Tonga over the past week.
Relationships have already been forged, both politically and economically, he says.
"There are very strong connections – it's an important export product market for us.
"I think the Pacific nations see Auckland engagement as serious and long-term. It's hugely significant for the sustainability of these small islands."
About $277 million worth of exports are sent to the islands from Auckland every year but only $6 million worth of imports are received.
Specific deals have been done this past week by businesses involved in milk powder and vanilla production, he says.
Educational institutes like AUT University, Manukau Institute of Technology, Unitec, Massey University and Te Wananga o Aotearoa also have representatives on the trip.
"Strong agreements will see students coming to Auckland or the other way," he says.
The level of planning in the islands has improved greatly since he last led a trade mission there three years ago as mayor of Manukau.
That's a good sign with New Zealand pumping millions of dollars each year into Pacific economies to help build infrastructure, he says.
"We need to be very clear in terms of what we're investing in."
The Tongan capital Nuku'alofa is really starting to develop, while progress is being made in Samoa on waterfront developments.
Progress is also being made in the wastewater and telecommunications areas.
Mr Brown would also like to see an action plan put in place to improve how the Auckland Council engages with Pacific nations.
And he describes the honour of being bestowed with the chiefly title of Taua'aletoa by the village of Lepa, near Samoa's capital Apia, as "humbling".
Taua'aletoa translates as "fighting warrior" which "says it all because I've had some battles".
Mr Brown returns to Auckland from the Cook Islands, the final stop on his trip, on Friday.