Govt should look at Pacific passport

The Green Party is urging the Government to give serious consideration to the idea of a ‘Pacific passport’ floated by visiting French Polynesia President Oscar Temaru.

“This suggestion is a welcome sign that French Polynesia is starting to see itself as part of the Pacific region, rather than as an outpost of France,” Green Foreign Affairs Spokesperson Keith Locke says.

“The Government should embrace this friendly overture, and explore with Mr Temaru how we can free up movement between Pacific nations and create a stronger Pacific identity.

“The initial focus should be on New Zealand and the other Polynesian nations. So far, French Polynesia has been out of the picture, while citizens from five other nations – Samoa, Tonga, Tuvalu, Kiribati and Fiji – are allowed to settle here under special Samoan and Pacific Access quotas.

“However, immigration rights are not the main thrust of what Mr Temaru is proposing. Essentially he is proposing a common travel document, which leaves people’s citizenship intact, but enables them to live and work in whichever Pacific nation they choose. Such an arrangement already exists between Australia, New Zealand, the Cook Islands, Tokelau and Niue.

“Recently, Samoan people have been pressing for a similar type of access to New Zealand, and Mr Temaru is signalling that French Polynesia also wants to be considered. Both Samoa and French Polynesia have viable economies, which means it is unlikely there would be a flood of migrants from either country.

“However, to prevent freer movement destabilising any of the poorer island economies, New Zealand should up its development aid, and include incentives for Pacific peoples who come here for work and education to take their experience back home. Commendably, most of our aid does go to the Pacific, but the overall aid budget is still pitifully low, at 0.27 percent of Gross National Income, when the international standard is 0.7 percent.”

Mr Locke said opening up borders in the Pacific region could bring benefits to both New Zealand and peoples of Pacific islands.

“In one respect, New Zealanders already have a Pacific passport, in that we have visa-free entry to Pacific Island states. Unfortunately, the reverse doesn’t apply, with Samoans and other Pacific Islanders often finding it difficult to even get visitor’s visas.

“Providing Pacific Islanders with visa-free entry to New Zealand for short stays might be a good place to start in addressing Mr Temaru’s concerns,” Mr Locke says.