According to the filmmakers: “During the Second World War, the inhabitants of the island of Banaba were forcibly displaced to Rabi Island in Fiji due to phosphate mining by the British Phosphate Commission.
“The island of Banaba was decimated and the Banabans had to start afresh in Rabi. The documentary follows the people in Rabi and sheds light into the problems that they face now, especially with climate change.”
Film maker Blessen Tom said on the documentary’s Facebook page: “It’s an amazing news for all of us. The festival will be the first time the full documentary is screened in public.
“Super excited for the Pacific screening. If you’re in Tonga on November 22-23, be sure to visit us.”
Documentary maker and senior lecturer Jim Marbrook said: “This is great and it’s a very cool first step,” adding that plans should be made for other film festival entries.
Pacific Media Centre director Professor David Robie said: “This is a tremendous achievement for starters and a reward for the really hard work that Blessen and Hele have put into making this quality and inspirational doco.”
Headline: NZ to give $6 million boost for USPNet telecommunications upgrade
USPNet … the regional University of the South Pacific’s satellite educational communications system. Image: USP
By Salote Qalubau in Suva
The New Zealand government has committed $NZ6 million ($F8.84 million) to improve the University of the South Pacific’s digital e-learning sector.
The commitment was revealed by USP Vice-Chancellor Professor Rajesh Chandra during the unveiling of the Royal New Zealand Air Force (RNZAF) commemorative monument at the Laucala campus last week.
The grant is expected to boost USPNet and ICT developments.
“New Zealand contributed significantly to the development of USPNet and to ICT development that strengthened links between all our campuses and greatly improved both the administrative communication and the teaching capacity of USP,” he said.
“We are very grateful that NZ has made a grant of $NZ6 million to totally re-engineer USPNet and replace all the satellite dishes to create a 21st century learning network for the Pacific Islands. This is a special contribution from NZ to mark our 50th anniversary.”
Air force base campus Meanwhile, New Zealand Defence Minister Ron Mark also announced two new developments in Fiji and New Zealand’s defence relationship when he joined more than 100 ex-5 Squadron servicemen and women for the unveiling of the commemorative monument to mark the land that was once home to the RNZAF 32 years ago.
“The New Zealand government announced the deployment of both the Royal New Zealand Navy inshore and offshore patrol vessels to Fiji later this year. The first, the IPV will be here in May, the OPV will follow after that,” he said.
“These and the deployment of the two technical advisers from the New Zealand Army and the Royal New Zealand Navy are two examples of our collaborative approach to supporting the development of our respective forces.”
Mark said he was also honoured to be able to commemorate the unveiling of the monument and the university’s 50th anniversary.
“Both of these partnerships are very important to New Zealand,” he said.
Salote Qalubau is a final year University of the South Pacific journalism student reporting for Wansolwara News.
Poor data collection in several Pacific Island countries is obstructing UNICEF’s first assessment to measure progress in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals for children according to a report.
UNICEF’s report Progress for Children in the SDG Era warns that most Pacific countries may fail to meet some of the child-related SDGs which means children are at risk of being left behind in terms of improving health, sanitation, education, protection from violence, abuse and exploitation.
The report says there was a lack of data on child-related SDG targets such as the proportion of children living below the national poverty line, or having access to early childhood development initiatives, children attending lower secondary school, and the nutritional status of children.
UNICEF Pacific Representative Sheldon Yett said that data did not change the world themselves but make change possible “by identifying needs and gauging progress”.
“Without investments in the collection and analysis of reliable data on behalf of the Pacific’s children, governments will not have the foundation to base decisions and actions to improve children’s lives.”
Widespread improvement needed Pacific Island countries scored well below the average omposite score for data capacity of 74 out of a possible 100 in the region and Asia. The scores ranged from 32 for Federated States of Micronesia (FSM) and the Republic of Marshall Islands (RMI) to 70 for Fiji.
However, there are areas that several Pacific countries are on track to meet targets such as:
basic sanitation services where 9 countries are on track except FSM, Vanuatu, Kiribati and Solomon Islands;
basic water services where 11 countries are on track except RMI, Solomon Islands, and Kiribati; and
neonatal mortality where 8 countries are on track except for Kiribati, Nauru, FSM, Tuvalu and RMI.
Some of the key issues raised in the report that calls for significant acceleration include ending violence, abuse and exploitation of children, increase of children learning in primary school, and increase in the rate of immunisation coverage.
Pacific Island countries need to ensure a strong measurement component is added to service delivery systems in health, education, social services, or border control; have minimum data coverage for children; and stronger shared norms on data concerning children.
UNICEF said how much government wouldl progress to meet SDGs would determine the future of children in the Pacific.
Pacific Media Centre project students and interns this year announced this week include two young budding documentary makers and a seasoned journalist from Fiji with more than two decades of experience.
Originally from Fiji, Krishnamurthi has always had a strong connection with – and a deep interest in – what is happening in the Pacific region.
He is currently a part-time student in the Postgraduate Diploma in Communications (Digital Media) course at AUT. He also has an MBA (Massey University).
Krishnamurthi worked for many years as a journalist with the now-defunct New Zealand Press Association newsagency and has held a variety of senior communications posts, including Northland Inc., an iwi (Ngatiwai) organisation, the Ministry of Pacific Island Affairs and as a minister’s press secretary.
“The media landscape has changed with the advent of the digital age, but the fundamentals of working as a journalist, a public relations practitioner, or in communications, require the same inherent skills they always have – albeit with some enhancements,” he says.
The two students going to Fiji this semester on the Bearing Witness climate change project are Hele Ikimotu and Blessen Tom, both on the Postgraduate Diploma in Communication Studies degree and keen to develop their screen production and writing skills.
Of Niuean and Banaban descent, Ikimotu completed his Bachelor of Communication Studies degree majoring in journalism last year and worked as an intern on the NZ Institute for Pacific Research project.
Hele is currently employed by the Office of Pacific Advancement at AUT, working for the the Oceanian Leadership Network, a new initiative at the university.
“I have a passion for Pacific stories, issues and people,” he says. “ I believe there needs to be more coverage on the Pacific community and positive representation of Pacific people.”
Blessen Tom, originally from India, completed his Bachelors and Masters in Literature and is now pursuing his studies in digital media.
He is passionate about visual storytelling and documentaries. Tom directed two short films and a drama, and is currently working on a mini documentary series for YouTube.
Headline: More frontline research ‘by Pacific for Pacific’ plea at climate summit
Trailer for the controversial climate change documentary Anote’s Ark – former Kiribati President Anote Tong opened the first Pacific Climate Change Conference in Wellington in 2016.
By David Robie at Te Papa
A recent Andy Marlette cartoon published by the Statesman Journal in Salem, Oregon, depicted a bathtub-looking Noah’s Ark with a couple of stony-faced elephants on board with a sodden sign declaring “Climate change is a hoax”.
The other animals on board floating to safety were muttering among themselves: “The elephants won’t admit that these 100-year events are happening once a month …”
At the other end of the globe in Wellington this week for the second Pacific Ocean Climate Conference at Te Papa Museum, I encountered a fatalistic message from a Tongan taxi driver counting down the hours before the tail-end of Tropical Cyclone Gita struck the New Zealand capital after wreaking a trail of devastation in Samoa, Tonga and Fiji.
He had it all worked out: “We don’t need climate conferences,” he said. “Just trust in God and we’ll survive.”
However, a key takeaway message from the three-day conference was just how urgent action is needed by global policymakers, especially for the frontline states in the Pacific – Kiribati, Marshall Islands and Tuvalu, where none of the sprawling atolls that make up those countries are higher than 2m above sea level.
Many of the predictions in assessments by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) are being revised as being too cautious or are already exceeded.
Bleak news for the Pacific at least. Glaciologist Dr Naish is working on a project to improve estimates of sea level rise in New Zealand and the Pacific.
More Pacific research needed Another critical takeaway message was the vital need for “more Pacific research, by the Pacific and for the Pacific”, as expressed by 2007 Nobel Peace Prize co-recipient Professor Elizabeth Holland, director of the University of the South Pacific’s Pacific Centre for Environment and Sustainable Development (PaCE-SD).
Many of the global models drawn from average statistics are not too helpful for the specifics in the Pacific where climate change is already a daily reality.
Dr Holland was a keynote speaker on the final day. Describing herself as a “climate accountant” making sense of the critical numbers and statistics, she said it was vital that indigenous Pacific knowledge was being partnered with the scientists to develop strategies especially tailored for the “frontline region”.
“Local research in the region is of utmost importance, leading to informed development choices and is the best way forward as it creates a direct connection between the research and the communities once it is implemented” she says.
“Our Big Ocean States are the most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change and remote research does not suffice, calling for the creation of leaders and experts locally through joint Pacific-led research.”
Scientists, researchers and postgraduate students were at Te Papa in force among the 240 delegates or so at the conference.
Deputy director Dr Morgan Wairiu was among them, speaking on “Engaging Pacific Islands on SRM Geoengineering Research”.
USP is one of only two regional universities in the world – the other is in the Caribbean. Its PaCE-SD is a centre for excellence in environmental education and engagement, and a global climate change research leader, especially with its focus on the Pacific region and island countries.
The university has 12 member countries with campuses or centres in each.
Local researchers are highly motivated and passionate about studies dealing with the effects of the changes occurring in their environment first hand.
The conference speakers included some the leading and innovative global climate science thinkers and advocates, such as Dr Michael E. Mann, distinguished professor of atmospheric science at Pennsylvania State University.
“There are droughts, wildfires and floods that are occurring now that are without any precedent in the historical record and where we can now use modelling simulations, climate models,” he says.
“You can run two parallel simulations. You can run a simulation where the carbon dioxide levels are left at pre-industrial levels, and a parallel simulation where you increase those levels in response to the burning of fossil fuels. And you can look at how often a particular event happened.”
He developed the artificial leaf from this theory, a project named by Time magazine as Innovation of the Year for 2011. Since then he has elaborated this invention with a partner in India to develop a production pilot deploying a complete artificial photosynthetic cycle.
He argues that it is developing countries that may play a more crucial role in harnessing renewable energy discoveries because the massive vested interest infrastuctures built around fossil fuels in Western countries hamper rapid progress.
Many speakers gave an indigenous perspective on climate change, arguing that a holistic approach was needed, not just focusing on the science and political solutions.
Independent researcher Aroha Te Pareake Mead gave an inspiring message about “Indigenous peoples and our knowledge – we’re a total package” and the Mataatua Declaration on the Cultural and Intellectual Property Rights of Indigenous Peoples 1993 and what has been achieved since.
The Mana Wahine panel – Associate professor Leonie Pihama, Dr Naomi Simmonds and Assistant Professor Huhana Smith – gave an inspirational sharing on “transforming lives through research”.
Law graduate Sarah Thompson spoke about her legal challenge last year to the previous National-led New Zealand government over the emissions target, and although she eventually lost the High Court case for a judicial review, she opened the door to future climate change lawsuits that may prove more successful.
However, former prime minister Sir Geoffrey Palmer, Victoria University’s Law Faculty distinguished fellow, was far more cautious, saying that there was better chance of persuading politicians and trying to develop climate change policy through the courts.
Dr D. Kapua Sproat, acting director of Ka Huli Ao Centre for Excellence in Native Hawai’ian Law and director of the Environmental Law clinic at the University of Hawai’i at Manoa, said Native Hawai’ians could invoke indigenous rights to environmental self-determination.
Julian Aguon of Guam, founder of boutique Blue Ocean Law, said it was a challenge to confront deep-sea mining negotiators and corporate lawyers in “wild west” style cases in the Pacific.
But he also pointed out that more media, climate change frontline activists such as the Climate Warriors, and West Papuan advocates – “where horrendous climate and cultural abuses are happening” – needed to be included in such a conference.
In the concluding panel, the joint Victoria University and SPREP organisers, led by Professor James Renwick and “spiritual leader” Assistant Vice-Chancellor (Pacific) Luamanuvao Winnie Laban, pulled together these core themes for going forward for the next conference in two years “somewhere in the Pacific”:
• Urgency of action • Pacific on the frontline of climate change • Multiple voices, and legitimacy of Pacific voices • New, more and better capacity-building in the Pacific • Action on all fronts – top down and bottom up • Need more effective laws • Transformative change is needed
Samoan Prime Minister and climate change action advocate Tuila’epa Dr Sa’ilele Malielegaoi is among the high-profile experts presenting at the Pacific Climate Change Conference this week at Te Papa National Museum.
Tuila’epa will give the opening keynote address at the conference on Wednesday morning.
The three-day event, February 21-23, co-hosted by Victoria University of Wellington and Apia-based Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP), has more than 160 invited speakers from backgrounds including science, government, business, indigenous rights, law, activism, media and the arts.
Among the line-up of speakers are renewable energy expert Professor Daniel Nocera from Harvard University, Professor D. Kapua’ala Sproat from the Native Hawai’ian Law Center, environmental scientist Dr Patila Malua-Amosa from the National University of Samoa, climate scientist Professor Michael Mann from Pennsylvania State University, indigenous bio-cultural heritage expert Aroha Mead and graduate lawyer Sarah Thomson, who filed a legal case against the New Zealand government over its emission targets.
It is the second time Victoria University has hosted the Pacific Climate Change Conference.
Climate change scientist and conference co-organiser Professor James Renwick says Victoria’s inaugural conference in 2016 highlighted the deep and long-lasting effects climate change was having on Pacific communities.
“In 2016, we heard from people whose daily lives are impacted by climate change-whether it’s more frequent extreme storms demolishing sea walls and destroying food crops, or warmer seas affecting fisheries and damaging corals,” he said.
‘Better understanding’ “But we also heard from people who are dedicating their work to better understanding the science, legal, political, economic and human aspects.
“This second conference is a chance to get the very latest information, exchange knowledge and ideas, and reignite connections that can bring positive change.”
Victoria’s Assistant Vice-Chancellor (Pasifika) Luamanuvao Winnie Laban says the conference is a vital chance for the voices of the Pacific to be heard.
“We have representatives from at least 11 Pacific island nations attending this conference so it’s an invaluable opportunity to share expertise and experience, and come together to find solutions.
“At the last conference, we asked representatives from Pacific nations, including New Zealand, to find out how their governments are reducing greenhouse gas emissions, in accordance with the Paris Agreement, and report back. We look forward to hearing their progress.”
Headline: Foreign journalists ban over ferry disaster blamed on climate doco
What if your country was swallowed by the sea? Kiribati (pop. 100,000) is one of the first countries that must confront the main existential dilemma of our time – imminent annihilation from sea-level rise. This documentary, Anote’s Ark, has been blamed by Kiribati immigration officials for their block on foreign journalists.
A controversial climate change documentary showing at the Sundance Film Festival has been blamed for the Kiribati government blocking journalists from entering the country to report on the fatal sinking of a passenger ferry.
The MV Butiraoi broke in half and sank three weeks ago, with more than 90 people missing and presumed dead.
Many did not survive the sinking, but those who did managed to clamber on to three boats.
However, Ioane said the rubber boat was so overloaded it split in half, leaving only two small dinghies.
The father of two said he managed to get his two children on board one of them – along with more than 20 others who either were on board on clinging to the side.
Only seven survivors have been found and family members have attended a church service in Auckland.
Clinging to boat for 6 days Speaking in I-Kiribati, Ioane, who himself was clinging to the side of the boat for six days, said the ones that floated alongside the boats were the first to die “we prayed with them until they died”.
It was on the sixth day, without food and water, that the old women and children on board the boat started to die.
The first was his three-year-old son Tauti Temwake and then his eight-year-old daughter Remwati. Others were delirious from lack of water and jumped off the dinghy thinking they were going to buy food, he said.
On the January 28, 10 days after the ferry set sail from the island of Nonouti, only seven survivors including Ioane were found by the NZ Air force P3 Orion.
Ioane said he last saw the other remaining dinghy with the captain on board and other survivors drifting towards land after the ferry sank.
Headline: Michael Powles: ‘Recolonising’ the Pacific would stir security backlash
Australian Foreign Policy White Paper … “Opportunity, Security, Strength” but a step too far for New Zealand. Image: Aust govt
ANALYSIS:By Michael Powles with Anna Powles
Australia’s recent Foreign Policy White Paper says that Australia’s approach in the region will focus on “helping to integrate Pacific countries in the Australian and New Zealand economies and our security institutions”. Does this mean effectively a recolonisation of parts of the Pacific?
O’Brien comments that the current aberrant behaviour of the Trump administration seems to be assumed by the White Paper to be a temporary phenomenon – “essentially bumps in the road on the highway of enlightened American-led progress”.
Few in New Zealand would agree the Trump administration is likely to change its ways. Recent presidential tweets suggest a determination to plumb new depths.
Many New Zealanders are puzzled by Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s avowal that Australia and the Trump Administration are “joined at the hip” for security purposes.
Now, Australia is proposing changes which would have a profound impact on our own Pacific neighbourhood and on fundamental New Zealand interests.
“Integrating” Pacific countries into Australian and New Zealand institutions: to achieve anything, this would have to involve surrender of at least some sovereignty. It would be seen by many in the region as a form of recolonisation, a modern version of the way Britain colonised Fiji, New Zealand and others in the 19th century.
Compact-style arrangements Australian analysts suggest this integration should be achieved by establishing arrangements with Nauru, Tuvalu and Kiribati along the lines of Compacts which the United States has with its former Trust Territories in the Pacific, Palau, Micronesia and the Marshall Islands.
In return for significant aid, these Pacific countries agree to deny access to their countries for all nations except the United States. The arrangements between New Zealand and the Cook Islands and Niue have also been mentioned.
But all these arrangements were negotiated by the United States and New Zealand respectively before the Pacific countries became independent or self-governing. For them to move to a more limited form of independence would be seen by many as a step backwards towards their colonial pasts; and at a time when the focus in the Pacific is on increased self-determination for Pacific Island countries, not less.
An experienced Australian commentator, Nic Maclellan, has suggested, however, that it’s folly to believe that Pacific countries would allow Australia to set the security agenda: “That horse has already bolted”.
One of the authors of this piece knows very well Kiribati, Nauru and Tuvalu, having visited many times. They are proud of their independence and to suggest in this 21st century that that should now be qualified or restricted is simply remarkable. There would be strong opposition.
Pacific leaders have become increasingly outspoken pursuing or defending their own interests. Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama of Fiji has developed his reputation for this over several years.
Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi of Samoa, current chair of the Pacific Islands Forum, has reacted angrily to the Australian government’s criticism of Chinese aid in the Pacific (“useless buildings” and “roads to nowhere”). The Prime Minister said these comments were “insulting to Pacific island leaders”.
Diminishing influence The Australian initiative would hasten a trend which is already diminishing Australian and New Zealand influence in the region. Pacific island perceptions that the two countries are becoming less supportive of Pacific aspirations over recent years have already resulted in a significant backlash.
Climate change is understandably given a much higher priority by island countries than by Australia and New Zealand. Trenchant positions by these two countries have prevented the Pacific Islands Forum taking positions fully reflecting island countries’ intense concern about the potentially catastrophic impact of climate change on several Forum members.
A consequence has been an emphasis on island country roles outside the Pacific Islands Forum. This has given impetus to other regional groupings and there has been much talk of this “New Pacific Diplomacy”.
Without a change by Australia and New Zealand to more responsive reactions to island countries, giving them greater agency within the Pacific Islands Forum, this longstanding regional body is likely to continue to diminish in relative importance.
The new Australian policy, aimed at securing control of aspects of foreign policy in several island countries, will be seen as another, larger, step away from support for Pacific self-determination and agency.
The case against New Zealand supporting this latest Australian move is strong:
New Zealand support for national and regional self-determination in the Pacific, or “Pacific agency” as some call it, has been fundamental to its foreign policy for decades.
Significant break Supporting this new initiative would be a significant break with this longstanding policy and would be deeply unpopular both in the region and overseas.
New Zealand’s relationships and influence in the Pacific would suffer from such a change, affecting also our influence on security issues – ironically the proposed policy is justified on security grounds.
New Zealand’s global reputation and influence, depending in part on our reputation and standing in our home region, would also suffer.
There is no evidence that interventions in the Pacific as proposed in the Australian Foreign Policy White Paper are actually necessary to preserve or ensure regional security, which is best served by effective collaborative diplomacy with Pacific partners.
Our Australian relationship is our most important and we should seek common policies where we can. This initiative, however, would be against fundamental New Zealand interests in our own neighbourhood. It would be a step too far.
Michael Powles, a former NZ diplomat, is a senior fellow of the Centre for Strategic Studies, Victoria University of Wellington. Dr Anna Powles is a senior lecturer at the Centre for Defence and Security Studies, Massey University, Wellington. They are currently writing a book about New Zealand’s role in the Pacific. This article was first published in The Dominion Post and has been republished by Asia Pacific Report with the permission of the authors.