NZ political parties outline Pacific policies ahead of election

With the New Zealand election being held this weekend political parties have outlined their Pacific-related policies.

The major parties are focusing on education, immigration and the relationships with Pacific governments.

National’s spokesperson for Pacific People’s Alfred Ngaro says he is proud of the work his government has done for Pacific people’s health and education and he is promising more of the same.

“So when, I think, in about 2008 the achievement levels for our Pasifika for NCEA level 2 which is the base level for any tertiary study was about 51 percent. Over the period of nine years that is now at 80 percent, which is around the national average.”

Mr Ngaro says he doesn’t anticipate policy changes for the level of Pacific immigration into New Zealand.

“The issues that I’ve been able to facilitate and address have been in regards to when our people come how do we make sure that they have the same opportunities as anybody else.

“How do we then deal with some of the issues around people then applying for permanent residency and then moving on to permanent citizenship?

“That’s been critically important.”

Mr Ngaro says the National-led government has developed a greater focus on Pacific countries and this is bearing fruit through its various renewable energy schemes.

“This government has been committed also to and recalibrated parts of its funding offshore to parts of Europe and have refocused that into the Pacific. So we are putting more aid into the Pacific than we ever have ever done before.”

Labour’s Aupito Su’a William Sio says his party wants to pick up where the National government has failed, especially in the promotion of Pacific languages.

Labour wants Samoan, Tongan, Cook Island, Niuean and Tokelauan to be promoted in the school system.

“This is a government that came in and started doing away with journals that were printed by the Ministry Of Education, then it removed Pacific bilingual education from the Pacific Education planned goals, then it took away a significant chunk of money from the Pasifika Education Centre.

“It really sort of hit home that this government wasn’t looking to preserve and protect Pasifika languages.”

Labour wants to establish a ministerial advisory group on Pacific immigration and he says there needs to be urgency around dealing with climate change refugees.

“Immigration in terms of the Pacific has to be separate and distinct based on out deep historic and family relationships with the Pacific.”

Aupito also says Labour, if in government, will work closely with Pacific governments.

“We are a Pacific Island country and as I’ve said before we do have a moral duty, I believe, to think about the relationship.”

The Maori Party’s Te Ururoa Flavell says his party’s recent alignment with the One Pacific party highlighted the need for more Pacific advocacy in parliament.

“The One Pacific peoples told us that their dreams and aspirations haven’t been affiliated to both Labour and National in the past, both parties in their perspective have or the enthusiasm to advance these kaupapa that Pacific peoples feel strongly to.”

Mr Flavell says his party promotes the policy of refugee status for people from islands affected by climate change and it wants an amnesty for overstayers.

“We’ve tried to take that stigma away, to take those barriers away and allowed them to move into the workforce and actually have good lives.”

The Green Party’s Marama Davidson says that they have a strong desire to work with Pacific governments.

“Our relationship with the Pacific is a really important whakapapa one because we acknowledge that the nations and the sovereign islands of the Pacific are are connected to us through whakapapa.

“I’ve always spoken very clearly that that importance of that tangata whenua relationship with Pacific nations needs to translate over to government.”

Ms Davidson says her party is also pushing for a new category of settlement for people who are climate change refugees and will champion fairer immigration policies for Pacific people.

“We always championed and called for a fairer, more effective immigration system – The Green Party. Too many people in Aotearoa, including Pacific people on temporary work visas, for example, are being exploited by employers and unsupported by immigration officials.

“So it’s about making sure that Pacific migrants are being treated with humanity and dignity.”

ACT’s David Seymour says that until New Zealand builds more houses for people on lower incomes Pacific people will continue to suffer.

“It’s Pacific peoples who need the housing market to come right and provide more housing more than any other group in New Zealand.”

Mr Seymour says that ACT is relaxed about the current levels on immigration, but says it should be based on the skills a migrant will bring into the country. He also says that people who immigrate here should do so within the bounds of the law.

Mr Seymour says maintaining good relationships with Pacific governments is important.

“The Pacific governments are absolutely critical to New Zealand geopolitically, the Pacific nations our economic base is an economic zone and of course that extends well into the Pacific. We need to have good relationships with our friends around the Pacific.”

Thousands of people have already voted but the bulk of the New Zealand electorate will go to the polls on Saturday.

Source: RadioNZ