PM, Pacific leaders to discuss climate change
French Polynesia and New Caledonia will kick off the Pacific Islands Forum leaders' retreat with a bid to join the forum, a move Prime Minister John Key thinks will make the meetings better.
The two nations have observer status, but are seeking full membership status to allow them to participate in discussions about issues impacting the Pacific region.
"They have quite developed economies. I think they would actually add a fair bit to the debate and my own view is that forum would be stronger for their admittance," Mr Key said in the Pohnpei in the Federated States of Micronesia where the forum is being held.
But some nations, including Fiji which already opposes the presence of New Zealand and Australia, is against their admittance, fearing it will give the French government too much influence in the region.
Membership discussions will form only part of the agenda, which is expected to be dominated by climate change, fisheries and renewable energy.
Mr Key revealed a new renewable energy support package for Micronesia, the Marshall Islands and Palau on Saturday morning as part of a $100 million package announced at the Pacific Energy Conference earlier this year.
New Zealand has projects under way in 11 countries already but that would be the first in Micronesia.
"The funding will allow the development of up to 400kW of solar-generated power in each of the three countries - that's the renewable equivalent of about half a million litres of fuel per annum," he said.
Mr Key will also follow up on a $50 million pledge he made at last year's forum to improve the management of the region's fisheries, with the focus now on stopping misreporting of catches by registered fishing boats.
Several Pacific leaders are at the forum, including Papua New Guinea President Peter O'Neill whom Mr Key is scheduled to meet later on Saturday, and Nauru's President Baron Waqa with whom he will talk on Sunday.
Fiji's Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama has missed the forum again, boycotting the event over what he sees as the interference of larger nations New Zealand and Australia.
He instead sent Ratu Inoke Kubuabola, who was removed as the country's foreign minister in a surprise cabinet reshuffle between the opening plenary session and the formal leaders' retreat.
"I found him to be a really effective person to deal with and a strong voice for New Zealand to engage with. We've had a series of issues over the last decade with Fiji where it's been important to have the dialogue open so at a purely personal level a bit disappointed but, of course, the matter is one solely for the Fijians," Mr Key said.
Mr Bainimarama, who is in talks to visit New Zealand for the Bledisloe Cup final in October, has taken on the ministry role.