Deputy Prime Minister Paula Bennett and Foreign Affairs Minister Gerry Brownlee have announced that New Zealand will contribute up to $6 million to redevelop Honiara’s Multi-Purpose Hall and sports facility.
“Honiara has a large, young, urban population and ensuring they have access to sporting and educational facilities is important for the future of Solomon Islands,” Mrs Bennett says.
“The upgraded facility in central Honiara will provide a safe and positive environment for young people to engage in sporting activities and get access to health and education services from a range of government and non-government organisations.”
New Zealand has previously supported upgrades to the Multi-Purpose Hall in conjunction with the Honiara City Council. The latest funding announced today will deliver a programme of essential upgrades and maintenance, and a significant expansion to the existing facilities.
“For the past 14 years New Zealand has made a significant contribution to the safety and security of the Solomon Islands through our contribution to the Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands,” Mr Brownlee says.
“Our support is now transitioning and will focus on economic development, creating employment opportunities, and supporting youth.
“The upgrade of the Multi-Purpose Hall is a project which signifies New Zealand’s commitment to the people of Solomon Islands and the young people of Honiara. It will also serve as a key piece of infrastructure when Solomon Islands hosts the Pacific games in 2023.”
Funding for the upgrade will come from the New Zealand Aid programme. Construction is expected to start later this year.
Mrs Bennett is leading the New Zealand delegation to Honiara for the RAMSI farewell. She will return home today. The delegation is travelling by RNZAF 757 and includes representatives from the New Zealand Police, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade and New Zealand Defence Force.
New Zealand is committed to helping Colombia achieve its target of being landmine free by 2021, Foreign Minister Gerry Brownlee says.
Mr Brownlee is currently in Colombia to attend the Pacific Alliance Summit in Cali.
“New Zealand has allocated a $1 million contribution over three years to support the nation’s continued demining effort,” Mr Brownlee says.
“More than 50 years of conflict between the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (the FARC) and the Colombian government has left the country heavily littered with mines, posing significant safety risks for its citizens.
“Colombia’s historic peace agreement has seen about 200 new municipalities become eligible for demining assistance but this requires a substantial increase in resources.
“New Zealand will provide $750,000 to support a two-year demining initiative with the HALO Trust Colombia.
“The funding will help expand the capacity of HALO Trust to identify safe land, map and mark minefields for future clearance in Meta, Colombia, and use New Zealand BurnSafe Thermit technology to destroy items of unexploded ordnance.
“The rest of the money will go to the United Nations, including to the UN Post-Conflict Multi-Partner Trust Fund for Colombia, which also supports demining in the South American nation,” Mr Brownlee says.
Foreign Minister Gerry Brownlee has announced the renewal of an agreement between New Zealand and Cuba that will boost medical assistance in Pacific countries.
The Cooperation Arrangement was first signed between New Zealand and Cuba in 2015 and enables Cuban doctors to receive language training in New Zealand before providing medical services in the Pacific Islands.
Mr Brownlee says the agreement – funded by the New Zealand Aid Programme – has been renewed for three more years.
“New Zealand and Cuba have a shared interest in the Pacific and extending this agreement between our two nations demonstrates our ongoing commitment to small island developing states,” Mr Brownlee says.
“Since 2015, the arrangement has delivered positive results in the Pacific and renewing it will allow New Zealand to provide 18 weeks of language training for up to five Cuban medical personnel per year.
“I look forward to seeing further progress take place in this area,” Mr Brownlee says.
Mr Brownlee is currently in Cuba to meet with his counterpart, before travelling to Colombia for the Pacific Alliance Summit.
Finance Minister Steven Joyce and the Minister Responsible for the Earthquake Commission Gerry Brownlee have today announced plans to simplify and improve the EQC scheme for New Zealanders.
“EQC has provided huge support to New Zealanders following the Christchurch, Seddon, and Kaikōura earthquakes,” Mr Joyce says.
“This review has provided us the opportunity to consider how the scheme could work more effectively for future natural disasters.
“Everyone with a private insurance policy, that includes fire insurance for their residential building, will continue to receive EQC cover,” Mr Joyce says.
Mr Brownlee says the reforms will have no impact on the handling and outcome of existing EQC claims.
“The reforms we are announcing will simplify the relationship between the EQC scheme and private insurance and help provide faster and smoother resolution of claims following a major event,” Mr Brownlee says.
The reforms are:Increasing the monetary cap from $100,000 (plus GST) to $150,000 (plus GST) for EQC building cover. Clarifying EQC land cover is for natural disaster damage that directly affects the insured residence or access to it. Standardising the claims excess on EQC building cover at $1,000. This currently ranges from $200 to $1,150 depending on the size of the claim. EQC no longer providing any residential household contents insurance. Requiring EQC claimants to lodge claims with their private insurer who would pass the claim on to EQC (if the property is insured).
“Requiring EQC claimants to lodge claims with their private insurer will help EQC and private insurers work better together in future.
“Following feedback from the Discussion Document issued in 2015, changes were made in response to submitter concerns regarding the treatment of land damage affecting residential buildings, the previously proposed $2000 excess and the idea of combining building and land damage cap amount,” Mr Brownlee says.
Further work now needs to be done on the details of a scheme that will incorporate the features announced today.
The Government hopes to release a draft of an EQC reform bill later this year or early next year, with the changes anticipated to be implemented in 2020.
Foreign Minister Gerry Brownlee will today travel to Cuba to meet with his counterpart before attending the Pacific Alliance Summit in Colombia.
On June 27, Mr Brownlee will visit Cuba to meet Foreign Affairs Minister Bruno Rodríguez Parrilla.
“This visit will help to strengthen New Zealand’s interests in the Latin American region, which is home to about 625 million people,” Mr Brownlee says.
“New Zealand works with Cuba on a number of important issues, including agriculture, international development, and regional cooperation.
“Both nations provide support to Small Island Developing States in the Pacific and Caribbean regions. Cuba is an important player in the Caribbean and the visit is a valuable opportunity to engage with one of our larger partners in the region,” Mr Brownlee says.
Mr Brownlee will then attend the Pacific Alliance Summit in Cali, Colombia on June 29 and 30. Trade Minister Todd McClay is also attending.
The Alliance is a regional organisation, established in 2011 by Chile, Colombia, Peru and Mexico. New Zealand has observer nation status with the Pacific Alliance.
“The Alliance is looking to begin trade negotiations with some observer countries as a pathway to offering Associate Membership of the group,” Mr Brownlee says.
“New Zealand already has long-standing relationships with the Alliance and each of its constituent nations.
“Pacific Alliance is a growing force for political and economic stability in Latin America, so it’s important for New Zealand to be a voice at the table,” Mr Brownlee says.
Foreign Minister Gerry Brownlee has announced New Zealand will provide a workshop in Barbados to help upskill the Caribbean in disaster risk management.
“New Zealand knows that having the right people with the right skills in place before an event happens is essential to responding to it effectively, and this is what we will be sharing with the Caribbean,” Mr Brownlee says.
“Like the Pacific, the Caribbean is largely made up of small island states, vulnerable to natural disasters.
“The workshop will focus on what mix of skills and experience the participant agencies need to have in order to manage disasters, and participants will prepare practical plans based on their countries’ specific needs.
“Thirty-five people from disaster response and disaster management agencies across the Caribbean region will attend the two-day workshop later this month.
“The workshop, funded by New Zealand, will be run in partnership with the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency, and delivered by two emergency management competency experts from GNS Science,” Mr Brownlee says.
Foreign Minister Gerry Brownlee has announced a significant boost to support Pacific island countries comply with international anti-money laundering standards.
New Zealand is providing $3.6 million to the Asia-Pacific Group on Money Laundering.
“The Group is a collaborative international organisation committed to the effective implementation and enforcement of international standards against money laundering and the financing of terrorism,” Mr Brownlee says.
“In recent years, there has been a global push to tighten anti-money laundering standards, and compliance with the standards has proven complex and costly for most Pacific island countries.
“The group will use the funding to provide Pacific members with technical assistance, including drafting new legislation, training regulators and supervisors of financial and non-financial institutions.
“It will also be used to train law enforcement agencies in investigating and prosecuting financial crime.
“Money laundering diverts essential funds away from the legitimate economy, and is often used to fund further criminal activity, including drug and people trafficking.
“These are trans-national issues, so better compliance with standards across our region is in New Zealand’s best interests. Improved compliance will help enhance international confidence in Pacific island economies.
“This investment will reduce operating risks and encourage banks and other financial service providers to invest in the region. It will also reduce risks in key sectors like remittances, tourism, and trade, on which Pacific island economies depend,” Mr Brownlee says.
The activity will run from July 2017-2022 and will mainly cover the 11 Pacific island countries that are members of the Asia/Pacific Group: Cook Islands, Fiji, Marshall Islands, Nauru, Niue, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, and Vanuatu.
The Minister Responsible for the Earthquake Commission Gerry Brownlee says settlement offers for the majority of claims from the Kaikōura earthquake are on track to be made by the end of the year.
In the wake of the magnitude 7.8 earthquake in November 2016, the Earthquake Commission (EQC) and private insurers signed a Memorandum of Understanding to help ensure claims were resolved efficiently and in a timely manner.
“Under the agreement, private insurers are acting as EQC’s agents and receive, assess and settle home and contents claims for earthquake damage, even those under the EQC $100,000 damage cap,” Mr Brownlee says.
“The new approach draws from lessons learnt by both EQC and private insurers from the Canterbury earthquakes of 2010 and 2011.
“In total, 38,000 residential claims are being managed as a result of the Kaikōura earthquake.
“This makes the Kaikōura earthquake the second-largest claims event in EQC’s history. While Christchurch, Wellington, North Canterbury and Marlborough are the primary locations for claims lodged, claims have also been received from Invercargill through to Northland.
“As of May 31, more than 40 per cent of building and land claims have had their initial assessment completed and 21 per cent of claims have been settled.
“Building assessments are progressing well in the worst-affected communities. About 55 per cent have been completed in Marlborough, 75 per cent in Kaikōura and about 50 per cent in the Hurunui district.
“Of the 5,500 claims that are being managed directly by EQC, 50 per cent of customers’ building and land claims have had their initial assessment completed and 39 per cent have been settled. EQC has almost completed 75 per cent of land and building assessments.
“The intention of the MoU was to reduce the double handling of claims and to speed up settlements for earthquake-affected customers and I’m pleased with the progress being made by both EQC and private insurers,” Mr Brownlee says.
Foreign Minister Gerry Brownlee has today announced three senior appointments to oversee New Zealand’s involvement in Expo 2020, being held in Dubai, United Arab Emirates (UAE).
Ex-Chairman of Kensington Swan lawyers, Clayton Kimpton, has been appointed as New Zealand’s Commissioner-General to Expo 2020 and prominent business leaders, Dame Julie Christie and Christopher Luxon, have been appointed to a wider steering group.
“Expo 2020 presents a huge opportunity for New Zealand businesses to promote their goods and services into a region that has become one of New Zealand's fastest-growing markets outside China,” Mr Brownlee says.
“The value of our trade with the Gulf States region currently stands at $3.8 billion a year.
“Participating at Expo 2020 gives us a platform to increase this substantially, by positioning New Zealand businesses at the heart of where relationships are made, perceptions are formed and deals get done.
“Bringing Clayton Kimpton, Dame Julie Christie and Christopher Luxon into the fold will bring a wealth of real-world commercial experience.
“This experience will help guide the planning and direction we take with Expo 2020, ensuring decisions are made through a business lens, focused on what New Zealand companies need to maximise the significant economic and entrepreneurial opportunities on offer,” Mr Brownlee says.
Foreign Minister Gerry Brownlee has announced diplomat Carl Worker as New Zealand’s next Consul-General in Hong Kong, a role he has held previously.
“New Zealand has a close relationship with Hong Kong with thriving trade, investment and finance links,” Mr Brownlee says.
“As New Zealand’s 10th largest export market with total exports of $1.15 billion last year, Hong Kong is an important commercial and investment market for New Zealand companies.
“New Zealand has had over 39,000 visitor arrivals from Hong Kong last year.
“We also have a very successful trade agreement with Hong Kong, the Closer Economic Partnership, which has secured duty-free access for New Zealand goods into Hong Kong. It continues to support growing trade both with Hong Kong and as an important gateway to mainland China for New Zealand firms.
“New Zealand and Hong Kong have strong community links, with long established expat communities,” Mr Brownlee says.
Mr Worker is currently Principal Business Adviser with a special focus on China at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, and Ambassador for Counter-Terrorism.
He served as Ambassador to China from 2009 to 2015 following earlier assignments as Ambassador to Argentina, his first appointment as Consul-General in Hong Kong from 1994-98, and Deputy Head of Mission in Beijing from 1992-94.