New Zealand comes to the aid of Pacific neighbors

New Zealand comes to the aid of Pacific neighbors

Top Stories | Feb 10, 2020:

By battling bushfires, combating a measles outbreak and funding development initiatives, New Zealand has steadily contributed personnel, supplies and money to demonstrate its commitment to neighbors in the Pacific island region.

Most recently, Wellington deployed equipment and personnel from the New Zealand Defence Force in early January 2020 to help Australia battle devastating bushfires. This included 112 specialist service members, three NH90 helicopters and a C-130 aircraft.

Earlier, on December 12, 2019, New Zealand Foreign Minister Winston Peters announced a boost in funding to prevent measles outbreaks across the region. To date, Wellington’s efforts have helped vaccinate hundreds of thousands of children in Fiji and Tonga and provided emergency care to the victims of the Samoan measles outbreak in 2019.

New Zealand is also participating in a partnership involving Australia and the United States to provide nationwide electricity generation and distribution for Papua New Guinea.

These actions reflect policies articulated in Wellington’s 2018 Pacific Reset development initiative and 2019 Advancing Pacific Partnerships (APP) defense policy statement.

Pacific Reset was launched in May 2018 by the country’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade to provide nearly U.S. $500 million over four years to Pacific island countries “according to their needs.” It demonstrates New Zealand’s commitment to help people in the region confront “immense challenges such as climate change, noncommunicable diseases and barriers to trade and rising unemployed youth populations with limited opportunities,” New Zealand Foreign Affairs Minister Winston Peters explained.

In APP, the New Zealand Ministry of Defence described how its “strategic policy settings and capability plan” are in line with Pacific Reset.

“Core to our concept of partnership is the assurance that New Zealand’s Defence engagement will be sustainable and focused on Pacific priorities,” said New Zealand Defense Minister Ron Mark in an October 29, 2019, speech. “We will be a reliable, trusted and long-term partner to all our friends in the Pacific.”

(Pictured: New Zealand Foreign Minister Winston Peters, center, and Defence Minister Ron Mark, right, have aligned their efforts to support neighbors in the Pacific island region.)

APP builds on the long-standing defense contributions by New Zealand to the Pacific, Mark said, and increases that commitment through its 2018 strategic defense policy statement. It also aligns with New Zealand’s commitments under the 2018 Boe Declaration on Regional Security, he added.

The 2018 strategic defense policy statement described the role of the New Zealand Defence Force to “community, nation and world,” and prioritized its ability to operate in the South Pacific to the same level as New Zealand’s territory, the Southern Ocean and Antarctica, Mark’s ministry reported. The Boe Declaration on Regional Security was approved by the 18 member nations of the Pacific Islands Forum in September 2018. It covers issues related to the security of the island states such as climate change, resource security, regional cooperation, the environment and cyber security.

Enhanced sealift, airlift, and maritime domain awareness are among New Zealand’s latest investments, Mark said, focusing on the military’s ability to respond to situations in the region, such as natural disasters. Mark also announced the launch of the Pacific Leader Development Program, funded by New Zealand, to help build leadership capacity in some Pacific island nations.

Tom Abke is a FORUM contributor reporting from Singapore.