New Zealand has made the first investments from its recently announced NZ$1.3 billion fund to support Pacific communities responding to climate change, with the greenlighting of projects in Samoa and Fiji.
In last year’s NZ national budget, Jacinda Ardern’s Government carved off the funds from its foreign aid budget and into a dedicated fund to combat climate change in the region, with the funds pledged over four years out to 2025 for infrastructure, scientific, agricultural and community projects.
In a joint conference in August, Ardern and Samoa’s Prime Minister Naomi Mata’afa announced a NZ$15 million commitment to help build the nation’s climate change resilience, also including a NZ$12 million commitment to rebuild the city of Apia’s historic market, destroyed by a fire in 2016.
Samoa made the request to New Zealand for the funds, and they will be deployed in partnership between the two countries.
“The market was renowned as a hub for local crafts and food, run primarily by women small business owners,” Ardern said.
“It is at the heart of Apia’s community and economic life, as well as formerly being a major tourist attraction.”
Samoan PM Mata’afa said her country was focusing on rebuilding and recovery after the pandemic lockdowns. Education and health were key, but the government was also keen to rebuild tourism infrastructure.
She said the rebuild had already seen a significant shift in terms of government investment, with more spending going direct to communities, the public sector, and servicing.
Another announcement from the NZ fund was a NZ$10 million commitment to the conservation of crop seeds impacted by climate change.
The funds are earmarked for the Centre for Pacific Crops and Trees in Fiji, which has been conserving the region’s collection of 17 crops including yarn, coconut and 70% of the world’s taro varieties since 1998.
Ardern said the region was now seeing the “knock on” effects of climate change, with wild weather leading to outbreaks of pests and diseases which threatened food security and increased food prices.
“This is an investment in the long term food security of the region,” the NZ Prime Minister said.
Announcing the fund last year, Ardern said the NZ$1.3 billion in funding would “assist lower-income countries to protect lives, livelihoods and infrastructure from the impacts of climate change”.
“I have seen and heard first-hand the impact of climate change in our region,” she said.
“We need to continue to step up our support for our Pacific family and neighbours who are on the front line of climate change and need our support most.”