McCully criticises Pacific aid organisation officials

23:02, Sep 02 2010

Foreign Affairs Minister Murray McCully has launched a strong attack on Pacific aid organisation officials, saying they are not meeting the practical needs of the region.

Speaking in Samoa, Mr McCully was responding to Labour's associate foreign affairs spokesperson Phil Twyford who condemned what he said were recent cuts to Pacific aid funds.

Mr McCully said Mr Twyford had been invited on the inter-party three-nation mission around the Pacific currently underway.

It was a pity he did not come, he said.

"I am unapologetic about the fact that we are reshaping our policies to better meet the needs," Mr McCully said.

"There is a view held by some of the desk jockeys from aid bureaucracies, of which (Mr Twyford) used to be one, that it is all about them, about funding large aid organisations and having large numbers of aid bureaucrats.


"In fact we have got to get more focussed about getting more practical things on the ground."

In a statement yesterday Mr Twyford said the latest casualty of Mr McCully's operation was a programme helping villagers in four Pacific countries reduce the impact of disasters such as tsunamis, cyclones and floods through disaster preparedness training and working with local government.

The Suva-based Foundation for the Peoples of the South Pacific reports NZ funding was cut a year before the contract was due to expire, without any assessment of the programme's impact.

The programme was initiated two years ago in collaboration with NZAID, the government aid agency disestablished soon after the National-ACT Government came to office, Mr Twyford said.

New Zealand pledged to commit $500,000 a year for three years but now funding has been cut after only one year.

"Mr McCully is taking an axe to NGO-based programmes that he doesn't like the look of. The cuts seem to be made on the Minister's whim, not on the basis of any evidence or assessment by officials."

Mr McCully said the Foundation tsunami relief programme had been inadequate and its work on tsunami warnings had been piecemeal and ad hoc.

New Zealand was to shortly announce a new programme, worth nearly $4 million, that will offer a more comprehensive tsunami warning system that would meet the needs of the people of the Pacific.

This morning Mr McCully had breakfast with Samoan Deputy Prime Minister Misa Telefoni.

It comes on the eve of the first anniversary of last year's South Pacific tsunami, which killed nearly 200 people, the bulk of them in Samoa.

Misa said the tsunami had only a small impact on the country's economy. From a slight contraction, the economy was expected to grow this year by five percent.

"The rehabilitation effort generated a lot of economic activity," he said, noting that rebuilding Japan and Germany after World War II had created great economies.

"Rebuilding an economy, whether from war or tsunami, generates a lot of economic activity and, what happens with economic activity, it doesn't just stop because the rebuilding stops, it has a life and momentum of its own."

Mr McCully was due this afternoon to cross to Upolu's southern coast to look at tsunami repair.

This week he also visited the Solomon Islands, the Kiribati capital Tawara and arrived in Samoa yesterday from the remote Christmas Atoll.