New Zealand's ambassador to East Timor sees Palmerston North as an ideal base from which to foster links between the two nations, given the Timorese have an affinity with the city.
At the NZ embassy in Dili, Tony Fautua told the Manawatu Standard that he wanted to move the relationship between the countries away from military and security and toward trade and education.
This week marks the pullout of the NZ Defence Force from the south east Asian nation, while the United Nations police mission will be gone by the end of the year.
Mr Fautua said once that happened it was time to look for new ways to develop links between the countries.
He noted that many East Timor government advisers and ministers had studied at Massey University, Palmerston North, and had an "affinity" with the area.
The head of the National University of Timor Leste (East Timor), Dr Aurellio Guterres also studied at Massey.
"Last year during the Rugby World Cup I brought them all back to watch the final and it brought back memories of Palmerston North," Mr Fautua said.
The city's proximity to Linton Military Camp and the Ohakea Air Force Base was a positive, as was the presence of agricultural development organisations such as AgResarch.
"That's exactly what [East Timor] needs . . . the technological expertise to help the agricultural side of the economy to grow."
A huge portion of the country's 1.1 million people are subsistence farmers, yet only a fraction of the total government budget is spent on that, as infrastructure building is the priority.
Mr Fautua also mooted the possibility of developing sister-city type relationships, for which Palmerston North would be an obvious candidate.
Trade between New Zealand and East Timor was worth a mere $300,000. There was, though, some wealth in East Timor, with the country earning from oil reserves in the sea separating it from Australia.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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