Pacific islands' plea for NZ to do more

AIMEE GULLIVER IN PALAU
Last updated 09:09 30/07/2014

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New Zealand could do more to co-operate with smaller Pacific island states Palau's president said at the regional forum yesterday.

President Tommy Remengesau told reporters after the Small-Island states conference at the Pacific Islands Forum that New Zealand and Australia were seen as "big brother" countries that could speak for the issues and challenges all island nations faced, but did not always provide enough support to them.

With oceans the theme of the forum, how the region's fisheries industry was managed while protecting marine life, was an important issue to be addressed this week.

Other issues affecting small island states in the Pacific were the rise of non-communicable diseases among island people, and the threat posed to ecosystems by invasive species, Remengesau said.

"To be very honest, I wish we would have more co-operation with New Zealand, not just on the ocean initiatives, but on climate change as well as other issues," he said.

Last year's Pacific Islands Forum called for a 10 per cent to 20 per cent reduction in carbon emission by 2020, but New Zealand had only committed to a 5 per cent reduction.

Remengesau was disappointed Prime Minister John Key had not travelled to the forum in Palau this week, the first time since Key became prime minister in 2008 that he had not attended the regional summit.

"I would be lying if I said to you we didn't want him here," he said. "We wanted him here."

The looming general election in September was the reason Key did not attend, and Foreign Minister Murray McCully went to Palau in his place.

Remengesau said small islands were increasingly vulnerable, and he urged developed countries to put aside debates on how to address issues affecting small island states, and enter into partnerships to combat those issues.

"We know that alone, we are indeed like islands, standing alone, and we cannot expect to get things done," the president said.

The seven states comprising the Small Island States - Cook Islands, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Nauru, Niue, Palau and Tuvalu - hoped to bring the issues of the Pacific to the Small Island Developing States summit, to be held in Apia, Samoa, in early September.

"Only as a unified group can we present our unique issues in a unified fashion, and we are trying to do that today and throughout the whole week," he said.

Remengesau hoped the international congregation of small island states would unify in Samoa, and take those same issues to the United Nations General Assembly.

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