The Minister for Foreign Affairs and External Trade, Hon. Milner Tozaka acknowledges New Zealand’s assistance to Solomon Islands when meeting his counter-part, the Hon. Gerry Brownlee, Minister of Foreign Affairs on Tuesday 4th July in Wellington. It was the first time for both Ministers to meet since Minister Brownlee replaces former Foreign Minister, Murray McCully in May this year.

It was a fruitful meeting between Minister Tozaka and Minister Brownlee. The issues discussed during the bilateral meeting include the RSE scheme, PACER Plus, Post-RAMSI and the SI-NZ Joint Commitment for Development.

On the RSE, Minister Tozaka acknowledge the New Zealand government for the opportunity given for Solomon Islands to participate in the scheme. Celebrating the 10th Anniversary of the RSE programme in 2017 is important for Solomon Islands. Since joining the programme in 2008 and formerly signing the Inter-Agency Understanding (IAU) in 2010, Solomon Islands really benefited from the scheme. The economic benefits provided under the RSE for the country is huge. Solomon Islands workers remit money back to the country to pay for their family needs and wants, use income from their employment to help them to start their own businesses and also equipped with knowledge and skills acquired from basic trainings that were provided for them.

Minister Tozaka informed his counter–part that the NZ RSE is the flagship for Solomon Islands labour mobility and hope other labour mobility programmes and initiatives in other countries follow the success story of New Zealand. By attending the 10th Anniversary of the RSE in Wellington and the RSE Conference in Blenheim, this demonstrated the importance of the RSE programme and the commitment by the government. Furthermore, making connections, relationships and strengthening partnerships with employers and government agencies in New Zealand is key to the success of the RSE. That is why it is important for Solomon Islands to attend the 10th Anniversary of the RSE and it celebrate its success and at the same time learn from the best practices of other stories and how Solomon Islands can do more to be able to benefit more from such opportunity.

Minister Tozaka also welcome and acknowledge the recent announcement by the New Zealand government for providing $15 million to assist Pacific Labour Mobility. This assistance will certainly assist Pacific Island countries to build their capacities, improve their internal processes and enable countries to meet the requirement of the employers in New Zealand. Solomon Islands look forward for the assistance in order to increase its numbers under the RSE to New Zealand as well as exploring the opportunities provided in other sectors such as construction and the service industry in the near future.

On PACER Plus, Minister Tozaka state that Solomon Islands is pleased to sign the PACER Plus and is looking forward for the implementation of the agreement with the support from Australia and New Zealand. Solomon Islands is yet to ratify the agreement but a road map is in place to ensure the process is fulfilled. There will be further consultations stakeholders held with stakeholders so that people fully understand what the agreement entails, know what opportunities are offered and how to benefit from them as well and also understand the implications. This process will certainly assist Solomon Islands moving forward in implementing the PACER Plus agreement. Hence, Solomon Islands sees labour mobility in the PACER Plus as an advantage and a benefit.

On Post-RAMSI, Minister Tozaka acknowledge the contribution made by the New Zealand government for the past 14 years. The RAMSI mission was a success and it demonstrated regional cooperation whereby members of the Pacific Islands Forum under the leadership of Australia and New Zealand work together to support another Pacific Island country in need, Solomon Islands.

During the RAMSI farewell event, Solomon Islands was pleased to have the Deputy Prime Ministhter, Hon. Paula Bennet leading the New Zealand delegation. It was a memorable event. Although the RAMSI farewell event marked an end of RAMSI’s operation in the Solomon Islands, it was pleasing to note that New Zealand will continue to assist Solomon Islands. The signing of the bilateral Police agreement by the Solomon Islands Minister of Police, Hon. Stanley Sofu and his counter-part, Hon. Paula Bennett, truly signifies the ongoing commitment that New Zealand has with Solomon Islands even after RAMSI leaves. Solomon Islands is grateful for the assistance rendered as this will greatly assist the Royal Solomon Islands Police Force (RSIPF) in their effort to curb criminal activities to ensure communities are free and safe.

Minister Tozaka also acknowledge New Zealand’s assistance to Solomon Islands under the Joint Commitment for Development (JCfD). The areas under the JCfD include education, fisheries, tourism, aviation infrastructure and management reforms, trade and labour mobility, safety and security and renewable energy. New Zealand’s assistance towards those areas contributed significantly to the social and economic development of the country and one that Solomon Islands is grateful for.

Minister Tozaka further thank the New Zealand government for its support to the Honiara City Council to upgrade the Multi-purpose hall. The Deputy Prime Minister, Hon. Paula Bennett who was present for the ground breaking ceremony during her visit to Honiara when attending the RAMSI farewell event confirm New Zealand’s support of NZ$6 million (SI$ 27 million) for the project. Minister Tozaka welcome the upgrading of the Multi-purpose hall as it is an important project for Solomon Islands. This project once completed will greatly benefit not only youths in communities in and around Honiara but the whole country.

Foreign Minister Brownlee was pleased to meet with Minister Tozaka for the first time. The meeting concluded with presentation of gifts and both Ministers agree to remain in close contact with each other and where mutual interests and issues arise, they can discuss.

Minister Tozaka is currently in New Zealand to attend the 10th Anniversary of the RSE and the RSE Conference. He is accompanied by the Deputy Secretary for Trade, Joseph Ma’ahanua, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and External Trade and join by Her Excellency, Joy Kere, the Solomon Islands High Commissioner to New Zealand and Cornelius Walegerea, Minister Counsellor at the Solomon Islands High Commission.

The Minister and the Deputy Secretary will arrive back in the country on Saturday 8th July.