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SUVA, Fiji Islands (July 1, 1999 - PACNEWS)---Australia and New Zealand have committed millions of dollars for the construction of a permanent headquarters for the South Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP) at Vailima, Samoa.

The announcement was made today by the Parliamentary Secretary to the Australian Foreign Affairs Minister, Kathy Sullivan.

"Our involvement in the project stems from a commitment made by the Prime Minister at the 1997 South Pacific Forum in Rarotonga that Australia would be willing to make a significant contribution to the SPREP headquarters project.

"Australia’s support for regional organizations in the Pacific, such as SPREP, helps to complement our development activities in individual countries.

"Sound environmental and natural resource management is particularly important to Pacific Island nations and is a major focus of our development assistance program in the region." Sullivan said.

SPREP’s work in promoting regional cooperation and assisting in protecting and improving the environment is based on five programs: Biodiversity and Natural Resource Conservation; Climate Change and Integrated Coastal Management; Waste Management; Pollution Prevention and Emergencies; Environmental Management Planning; and Environmental Education, Information and Training.

Sullivan said Australia welcomed the opportunity to cooperate with other countries in supporting regional development in the Pacific.

"I am pleased to note that apart from Australia, New Zealand and Samoa (which donated prime land in Vailima), pledges of support for the SPREP headquarters have been made by a number of countries, including Papua New Guinea, France, China, the United States, the European Union and Japan," Sullivan said.

Australia and New Zealand will provide combined additional funding of approximately A$ 400,000 ($US 261,000), in addition to an earlier contribution of A$ 1.25 million ($US 810,000) and NZ$ 1 million ($US 530,000) respectively, to the headquarters project.

Groundbreaking for construction of the new SPREP headquarters took place earlier this week.

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