Pacific nations agree to work closely in response to disasters

Updated: 2015-07-10 17:02


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SYDNEY - The foreign ministers of the pacific nations have agreed to work more closely in response to disasters, while New Zealand and Nauru lock horns over the fallout from the Nauruan political protests at the Pacific Islands Forum (PIF) in Sydney on Friday.

A report from the meeting called for new spending on early warning systems, greater cooperation involving police and military as well as emergency supplies to be housed around the region for swift disaster relief response.

Secretariat for the Pacific Community Director General Colin Tukuitonga said disaster management agencies needed more training so they can lead and help coordinate the response better locally.

Tukuitonga said officials were overwhelmed during Cyclone Pam at the task that lay ahead coupled with the sheer number of aid groups on the ground.

"They appreciated the generosity," Tukuitonga said, "here's no shortage of people wanting to do good things but often it's not well planned and coordinated."

Local media reported the island countries are also looking at a range of funding options, such as Tonga's example of taking out insurance premiums, rather than simply waiting for the generosity of wealthy countries for climate change mitigation and disaster management.

New Zealand Foreign Minister Murray McCully has met with Nauru President Baron Waqa on the sidelines of the talks voicing his concerns over the decline state of democracy and rule of law on the island nation.

McCully is holding the possibility of a cut in the $811,000 in aid it provides the Nauru following heated discussions with Waqa.

McCully said Waqa vigorously disputed some aspects of recent international media reporting and gave his government's perspective of the events, however, Waqa characterized the discussion as healthy.

Waqa believed he was able to ease concerns about "unfounded claims of unrest and internal trouble on the island nation."

"I believe Minister McCully appreciated the dialogue and we agreed that any ongoing legal proceedings are a matter for the Nauru government and its people," Waqa said in a statement.

Meanwhile, Australian Minister for Foreign Affairs Julie Bishop said Papua New Guinea is on track to resettle asylum seekers from the Australian run Manus Island detention center following a discussion with her PNG counterpart, Foreign Minister Rimbank Pato.

Bishop told reporters she had been briefed on the PNG government's progress in sorting out on-going legal issues and had been told the resettlement process is "on track."

The forum concluded with a spot of sports diplomacy with ministers meeting rugby stars of Pacific island heritage playing in Australia.

Rugby is the most popular sport in the Pacific islands.

The Pacific's heads of state will meet at the next Pacific Island Forum in Port Moresby, PNG, in September.