The government is set to hike foreign aid by more than $700 million over the next four years, as part of its signalled ‘Pacific reset’ strategy.
We should be doing this because we have obligations to our Pacific neighbours who are blighted by poverty and climate change. National turned Pacific Aid on its head when it was transformed into a subsidy for NZ business to do things in the Pacific rather than genuine aid.
The geopolitical argument is that we need to counter Chinese influence, which is inane.
China will always have more money than us, so our aid should be genuine rather than as a mechanism to play Chess against the Chinese, but that’s not to say that we shouldn’t;t look to other ways to build our influence outside of aid.
Auckland is the largest Pacific Island City and we do little to celebrate or leverage off that. We need to look at offering fundamental migration opportunities for Tuvalu, Tokelau and Kiribati who face the worst impacts of climate change but we also need to think outside the square in terms of not only countering Chinese influence but beating it.
I think two ways NZ could uniquely promote its interests into the Pacific against China could be via Rugby Diplomacy and Journalism.
The All Blacks doing a tour of the South Pacific would actually be of huge cultural and sporting importance and something the Government should sponsor with taxpayer dollars to help subsidise the costs to the All Blacks as a sign of respect to the sporting and cultural contribution Pacific Island nations have provided NZ.
Why shouldn’t we use Rugby as a diplomatic tool to build standing throughout the Pacific? It’s something China couldn’t match and something NZ could excel at.
Likewise Journalism. AUT run the excellent Pacific Media Centre to promote quality Journalism throughout the Pacific. What if NZ saw the promotion of quality Journalism as a craft throughout the Pacific as a strong way to counter corruption and Chinese influence? Scholarships, Pacific News Media websites, support of local ethical journalism these could be the pillars of promoting corruption free politics and holding those Governments to account.
Rugby diplomacy and promotion of Journalistic standards throughout the Pacific could counter China and promote NZs strategic interests.
We can’t outspend China, but we can play a far smarter game.