|+ So far in the Pacific Reset...
The government launched its $20 billion Defence Capability plan
, which given its focus on climate change mitigation in the Pacific is being promoted by the government as part of the 'Pacific Reset'.
The bulk of the money will be spent over 11 years, and goes to 'big ticket items' like $3.5b for new and replacement naval vessels and maritime helicopters, and up to $2.5b for upgrades to New Zealand's Air Force.
The Government also plans to bolster New Zealand's army personnel to 6000 by 2035 – up from the current number of 4700 troops.
There is no doubt this improves NZDF's ability to respond to emergencies in the Pacific and this will be welcomed by Pacific community groups.
“At its heart, this new Capability Plan is a humanitarian plan. It readies New Zealand to lead in the assistance of our neighbours, and to contribute to the security of our friends in the Pacific," says Minister of Defence Ron Mark.
But the reset must be backed up with other activities that genuinely rethink our relationship with Pacific countries.
The government has set out 5 key areas for the 'reset' (good governance, human development, climate breakdown, women’s empowerment and young people), under the core principles of 'collective ambition, mutual benefit, friendship, understanding, and sustainability'.
How's the delivery going? Here is a summary of a few of the reset activities:
- "It is wonderful to see the considered evolution of a new climate action program, with increasing focus on adaptation," writes Oxfam's Jo Spratt in DevPolicy.
- Climate change funding has increased.
- Staff numbers have increases at MFAT to support the 'reset
- The relationships with New Zealand's international NGOs is being 'reset', with a new funding system that sets out to incentivise greater partnerships in the Pacific.
But beyond that, argues Jo Spratt, it's hard to see a lot of new activities, and the focus has not been "to prioritise poverty reduction".
Others argue the potential for 'NZ Inc' (charities, government and business) to move beyond an aid relationship is just beginning, and this will ultimately be more empowering than the old 'welfare model' of aid.
The template for this exists in the diaspora community (the 'reset' is not just happening in government). Here are some examples of other sectors resetting the relationship with the Pacific:
- The nine central banks in the Pacific joined together recently to “collaborate to promote the prosperity and economic wellbeing of our member nations,” says Caren Rangi (Director of the Cook Islands Investment Corporation). This is the kind of partnership New Zealand can help to encourage under the 'reset' agenda, she argues.
- From the 2018 Joint Ministerial Forum between New Zealand and the Cook Islands, New Zealand facilitated an opportunity for the Federation of Maori Authorities to share and use the expertise of their membership for Cook Islands projects. For example, deforestation in the outer islands. Under a 'reset', New Zealand can facilitate more Pacific led opportunities like this.
Comparing the 'resets' and 'step ups', New Zealand is arguably doing better than Australia. An increase in NZ aid levels in this year’s budget (2019-2020), maintains our aid/gross national income ratio at 0.28%. The rate of budgeted increases has actually gone up
since the last budget, writes Terence Wood in DevPolicy Blog.
Meanwhile Australian aid levels continue to tumble down to the '0.2% club', even though Australia's PM, Scott Morrison has certainly stepped up his visits to the Pacific
, and funding for infrastructure.
Clearly the 'reset' has only just begun.