'Sports diplomacy' to cost taxpayers $50k
The Foreign Affairs Ministry is rolling out a new kind of diplomacy, which includes a netball team, the Cook Islands and $50,000 of taxpayer money.
The cash will come from the Public Diplomacy Fund, allowing New Zealand's national development squad to play a series of tests in Rarotonga to mark the 50th anniversary of the Cook Islands' independence.
Foreign Affairs Minister Murray McCully is making no apologies for the expenditure, saying it is money well spent.
"The cultural diplomacy fund is the one that they use for taking our symphony orchestra, youth choir, photography exhibitions and so on to other countries, where they are going to be able to put us on the scene and make our mark.
"In my view, we don't use the sporting contacts we have – particularly in the Pacific, but also elsewhere – enough," Mr McCully says. "This is part of the process of trying to get sport to be a higher profile part of the relationships."
He says that the success of the All Blacks test in Samoa was a good example of sports diplomacy.