PACIFIC GETS A SPECIAL PLACE IN NEW ZEALAND'S PARLIAMENT

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AUCKLAND, New Zealand (February 20, 2002 – New Zealand Herald/PINA Nius Online)---A select committee room at New Zealand's Parliament has been dedicated as a place to recognize the contribution of Pacific people to New Zealand, the New Zealand Herald reported.

The room, in Wellington, features a carved entranceway and displays art and gifts to New Zealand from Pacific states, the newspaper said.

The dedication was the culmination of efforts by four New Zealand MPs of Pacific descent: Pacific Affairs Minister Mark Gosche, fellow Labour MPs Taito Phillip Field and Luamanuvao Winnie Laban, and National MP Arthur Anae.

The room is on the ground floor of Parliament next to the Maori affairs select committee room.

In a ceremony on Parliament's forecourt, in brilliant sunshine, Prime Minister Helen Clark said New Zealand was a "pan-Pacific nation," the New Zealand Herald reported.

It had benefited from the energy and vitality of Pacific peoples and in turn, offered the richness and bounties of its shores.

Representatives of Samoa, the Cook Islands, Tonga, Niue, Tokelau and Fiji also spoke, the New Zealand Herald said.

The event marked more than the celebration of a room, said Samoan speaker Fa'amatuainu Tino Pereira.

The New Zealand Herald quoted Fa'amatuainu as saying: "There have been moments of Herculean generosity but there have also been periods that have been punctuated by political differences. But today is a symbol that we are moving forward.

"Today we are celebrating more than a room or artifacts or a cultural space. We are recognizing a process to heal."

He said that 70 years ago Samoa was under New Zealand administration but fighting for political recognition.

Now he saluted New Zealand's contemporary leadership and the Speaker, Jonathan Hunt.

"You have, through this noble gesture, given us as a community a place in your house we can call our own: a place for Polynesia, a place for Micronesia, a place for Melanesia."

New Zealand's Pacific Island population of 227,000 is expected to more than double by 2051 and make up 12 per cent of the population.

For additional reports from The New Zealand Herald, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Newspapers/ New Zealand Herald.

Pacific Islands News Association (PINA) Website: http://www.pinanius.org 

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