Welcoming him back for the second time in less than a year, Vanuatu Foreign Minister Ralph Regenvanu told his New Zealand counterpart Winston Peters he was pleased with the significant uptick in dialogue and action between the two countries.
Mr Peters is also New Zealand’s Deputy Prime Minister.
Citing “the interpersonal connections that have greatly increased” since the Pacific Reset was announced, Mr Regenvanu told a press conference on Thursday afternoon that “we’re very happy with this Melanesian mission that the Deputy Prime Minister is engaged in.”
He went on to express gratitude for New Zealand’s assistance in improving access to water, sanitation and health. Mr Regenvanu stated that as a former Minister of Lands, it was a matter of direct interest to him.
As many have before, he cited the Registered Seasonal Employment programme as a major economic development success. RSE, he said, “has really contributed at the grassroots level to communities and the development of better living standards”.
During a bilateral ministerial meeting that had just concluded, Mr Regenvanu told the media that they had discussed economic development, youth education, as well as security and policing, “which are some of the main concerns at this particular point”.
“We’re happy for the increased engagement also announced during this meeting,” he said.
Among the new initiatives announced during Mr Peters’ first day in Vanuatu are the placement of community policing experts with the Police Northern Detachment in Santo as well as here in Port Vila, and the construction of additional classrooms in Santo to alleviate some of the overcrowding in the aftermath of the Ambae evacuation.
“We continue to value New Zealand as one of our key partners,” Mr Regenvanu said.
For his part, Winston Peters characterised the meeting, which was chaired by Prime Minister Charlot Salwai and attended by key ministers and officials, as “very successful”.
Climate change and regional security threats were also on the agenda, said Mr Peters.
“A whole range of issues were covered. It underscores the fact that we share a special bond which arises from our shared geography in the South Pacific, and the movement of our people”.
With a smile, he reminded the press conference that the RSE programme began “the last time I was foreign minister”. Where security issues are concerned, he said, “what we want to know is: what else can we do to assist in that respect?”