We were delighted to host Mr Jonathan Kings and a delegation from Wellington at Pacific Community Headquarters in Noumea, New Caledonia, this week.  This is the first High Level delegation from NZ in recent times, and a great opportunity to revitalise our longstanding partnership.

This year SPC celebrates 70 years of scientific and technical cooperation with members and partners. Notably, New Zealand was one of 6 founding members of SPC – a testament to sustainable partnership for development. SPC also continues to operate from the former NZ Defence Forces base (Camp B) in Suva, Fiji.

I would like to take this opportunity to mention recent key development contributions New Zealand has made to SPC and its development work in the region. We are particularly excited by the opportunities presented through the New Zealand government funded ‘Incubator Fund’ where SPC scientists will work jointly with NZ-based scientists on innovations to address our key development challenges.

New Zealand has also recently provided much-needed support for coastal fisheries and aquaculture, recognizing how critical fish and seafood is in maintaining food security for Pacific communities. This adds to the long-standing contributions to the SPC Oceanic Fisheries Programme and tuna stock assessment.  Scientific data from SPC scientists is the basis for all of the policy and management decisions by governments and fisheries organisations in the Pacific region.

In the area of Pacific Public Health, NZ remains the main supporter of the Pacific Public Health Surveillance Network (PPHSN) – a multi-agency network that provides surveillance and outbreak information and advice for the entire region on vector-borne diseases such as dengue and Zika.  This is an essential regional public good providing early warning and alerts to all countries worldwide.

New Zealand also continues to support much-needed work in the prevention and control of Non Communicable Diseases such as diabetes, obesity and heart disease, the largest and most preventable cause of death, disease and disability in our region.

In 2015, with support from New Zealand, SPC conducted the largest Pacific Islands Literacy and Numeracy Assessment (PILNA) survey to provide a snapshot of literacy and numeracy achievement in the Pacific region. More than 45,000 Year 4 and Year 6 students from around 700 schools across 13 countries took part in the PILNA which was administered in 10 languages. The results provide an evidence base that educational stakeholders in the region are able to use to designing intervention strategies to improve student performance.

Other recent contributions include support for a five-year Water Security project targeted at island atolls in the Pacific. The NZD 5 million project, implemented by SPC in the five atoll countries of the Cook Islands, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Tokelau and Tuvalu, works closely with their governments and communities to implement a suite of practical measures designed to build the skills, systems and basic infrastructure to better anticipate, respond to, and withstand the impacts of drought.

Beyond supporting the programmes and projects that SPC delivers for members, New Zealand also extends support to developing a robust SPC through the modernisation of SPC’s financial and business systems.

This is only a snapshot of ongoing contributions.

Discussions over the week with the delegation focused on improving the effectiveness of the strategic partnership signed between NZ and SPC in 2014.  Notably the partnership has matured from largely financial transactions, to a genuine partnership based on shared principles and exchange of expertise to address the key development challenges of our region.

As we formally celebrate SPC’s 70th Anniversary in July with our member’s and partners, we acknowledge New Zealand as the incoming chair of CRGA this year to July 2018.

The SPC-NZ partnership is a productive and long-standing one, and we expect to see even more great achievements over the next 70 years.