Pacific Trade Invest New Zealand Advisory Board Member Rachel Afeaki-Taumoepeau was invited to attend the New Zealand Prime Minister Bill English’s official inaugural delegation to the Cook Islands, Niue and Tonga from 13-17 June.
Mrs Afeaki-Taumoepeau represented Pacific Trade Invest New Zealand (PTI NZ) as an executive member of the Board. She is also Deputy Chairwoman of the New Zealand Tonga Business Council (NZTBC).
Accompanying the delegation was a large contingent of New Zealand Members of Parliament, Government officials, business and community representatives and a large media contingent.
Mrs Afeaki-Taumoepeau gave an exclusive report to Pacific Periscope:
“The invitation to attend on behalf of PTI NZ’s advisory board was a privilege. The one-on-one engagement with our PM – and relevant discussion with other business and civil delegate leaders was valuable – to not only hear what is happening across the region from New Zealand’s perspective but make further connections both domestically and internationally.
“Meeting with the new Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, Gerry Brownlee, also provided a good opportunity to talk of the work of PTI NZ and the excellent developments coming from our office.”
Attending the Ministerial Pacific mission provided a clear snapshot of what is happening across the three islands – and New Zealand’s engagement across key sectors, she said.
For PTI NZ it is this snapshot that allows for the Advisory Board to provide further strategic insight and advice to the management of PTI NZ.
PTI NZ was well received and the transformative impact across the private sector is significant with room to grow, Mrs Afeaki-Taumoepeau said.
“Considering the available resources to PTI NZ, as an economic agency in the region, it punches well above its weight.
“PT&I should be present on all PM missions to countries of concern to the work and potential work delivered by PT&I,” she said.
During the visit Mrs Afeaki-Taumoepeau said she spoke to the PM directly about PTI NZ and its excellent work it did with the private sector for emerging and export ready businesses.
“PTI NZ’s importance and relevance on the mission was clearly evident – with the work and already established relationships with key stakeholders across all three nations. The quality level of engagement with the private and public sectors – although short in time provided a very good snapshot of activities for PTI NZ to review, monitor and potentially engage with (if not already),” she said.
Those who had not heard of PTI NZ were pleased to hear of the services offered and work delivered to date in respective nations. The success of PTI NZ’s Pacific Path to Market programme, the improved and user-friendly website and social media presence was also mentioned. But many were surprised and impressed to hear that PTI NZ has an advisory board in place.
Mrs Afeaki-Taumoepeau listed these observations and highlights during her visit to the islands:
In the Cook Islands, investment into the economy was a key message and identifying the need to connect the developing vanilla industry with key business and civil delegates was very important. There was a need for specialist engagement for Research and Development, investment facilitation and Path to Market services and to engage with the VSE sector to bring in human resources to allow the service to be self-sustainable.
In Niue, Mrs Afeaki-Taumoepeau noted the progress of the Matavai Resort, recalling an earlier Ministerial visit to Niue with Minister Murray McCully and to returning to see the extension and renovations of the hotel first-hand with Minister Jerry Brownlee. Engaging with local businesses in agriculture, honey, vanilla, hydroponics and handicrafts who were export ready and the ongoing support via marketing and investment facilitation from PTI NZ was well received.
“The level of enthusiasm and order particularly in Tourism and Agriculture was clearly evident with a well-presented outlook of both sectors to the delegation,” she added.
In Tonga, her highlights included being present for the reopening of the Teufaiva Stadium with the assistance of the New Zealand Government coinciding with key international rugby matches being played between Tonga and New Zealand boosting the local economy and sports administration.
For PTI NZ there was Investment facilitation for growth opportunities concerning the wharf infrastructure and fisheries for PTI NZ to further engage with its industry leaders.
In addition, being amongst the Women in Leadership Breakfast was a highlight for all the women delegates. They heard from the pioneering public servants who silently cracked the ceiling to allow for more women to come through the public sector and Parliament.
Mrs Afeaki-Taumoepeau also met with the President of the Chamber of Commerce to further discuss the growing successful relations between PTI NZ and Tonga.
The overall response from the islands to the PM’s visit was positive and encouraging.
“There was a very strong element of humility and graciousness shown by our leaders with the support given by New Zealand for key areas of development – namely infrastructure, renewable energy and enabling home country private sector,” Mrs Afeaki-Taumoepeau said.
The general theme across all three Pacific islands was the recognition by the New Zealand Government of the growing diaspora of Pacific islanders already contributing to New Zealand’s economy simultaneously back to their home country. Two homes, one people and the need for the New Zealand Government to continue and further its relations within the region.
However, the issues concerning the Pacific Island countries ranged from climate change to the challenges of running a successful business.
Market accessibility for both key and emerging export (ready) businesses from the respective nations and the challenges of supply meeting demand are still very much a valid concern, even where niche markets were established.
Finally, the examination of government’s leadership and the impact of the upcoming elections in New Zealand come September were also raised during the visit.
For more information please email PTI NZ’s Eleanor Ikinofo on Eleanor.firstname.lastname@example.org