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The Rt. Hon. Don McKinnon Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade

Speech to Timaru Branch of the New Zealand Institute of International Affairs St Johns Hall 125 Waiti Road Timaru, New Zealand Friday, September 11, 1998


Foreign Policy In The South Pacific

Our foreign policy also focuses on the South Pacific. Countries in the region are our near neighbors and we have a long history of immigration and cultural linkages with them. If we can assist the small independent Pacific nation states to prosper (through economic, trade, training and development aid programs) then ultimately that impacts on the economic health of the region on the New Zealand economy.

The South Pacific states are the destination for NZ$ 600,000 million (US$ 326.22 million) of New Zealand exports and so is a significant market for us.

Our aid program plays a key supporting role in assisting these countries towards good governance and much of the aid budget (NZ$ 204 million [US$ 110.9 million] for the 1997/1998 year) goes towards assisting countries to strengthen Government institutions. I could cite many examples of where New Zealand aid has made a real impact on the lives of many citizens in the Asia Pacific region through regional health, education and environmental programs to disaster relief efforts.

On my recent visit to Micronesia and Melanesia the plight of many of these countries was highlighted. They have a number of challenges to address including good governance and the development of appropriate infrastructure, e.g. rubbish disposal, roads and sewerage. In short we cannot afford the luxury of Pacific Islanders living in poverty on their islands in our home region to cope with their growing populations.


The leading role we played in brokering peace in Bougainville provides an example of how New Zealand can play a key role in regional affairs.

This hidden war in our own part of the world was taking a huge toll on human lives. Many people were dying. Many people were living in fear. On my first visit to the Island I was overwhelmed by the air of hopelessness and despondency. I resolved that our Government had a responsibility, as a neighbor- and a friend of Papua New Guinea, to do something to help. Twenty-two months ago we quietly got started.

The results since then, I hope, speak for themselves. We facilitated the Burnham meetings which led to a Truce on Bougainville. The Truce held and thanks to the Leaders' Meeting held at Lincoln University in January, it was successfully overtaken by a permanent cease-fire which took effect on 1 May.

I have been conscious throughout this peace process that actual solutions could only ever come from the parties themselves. What was needed from New Zealand was assistance in bringing the parties to a neutral table. We were able to offer time, space and encouragement for them to negotiate.

We were also later able to offer a presence on the ground in Bougainville in the form of an unarmed truce monitoring group, that didn't carry any historical baggage and was acceptable to all parties.

We should harbor no illusions that this crisis has been fully resolved. Clearly much remains to be done, with a number of thorny political issues needing to be addressed, as well as massive reconstruction efforts to rehabilitate an island torn apart by a decade of war. But we can be proud that our efforts in assisting the Government of Papua New Guinea and the people of Bougainville towards peace. New Zealand took an important initiative and for the people who have suffered for many years our actions, our commitment to the region, have made and will continue to make a very real difference.

Further Afield - The UN and the Commonwealth

But our scope is not limited to this region. Through the United Nations we seek to promote and protect fundamental human rights, and contribute to international peace support operations. This year we had up to 340 NZ personnel serving in 14 operations worldwide. While a large number have recently returned home from truce monitoring on Bougainville, 30 NZ personnel are still serving as peace monitors on the Island.

We have a huge challenge ahead with APEC, but I'm sure with New Zealand behind us we can hold a successful leaders' meeting and use this opportunity to gain valuable exposure overseas.

This is an official release from a NZ Minister of the Crown. An archive of releases can be viewed at E-mail to Ministers can be sent to Please include a postal address if you require a reply.

This public article was forwarded by NOBBY:

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