Government announces huge funding boost for foreign service

Foreign Minister Winston Peters has announced a huge funding increase for foreign service.
Foreign Minister Winston Peters has announced a huge funding increase for foreign service. Photo credit: AAP

The Government has announced a huge boost in funding for New Zealand's foreign service.

In a Parliamentary speech ahead of the 2018 Budget, Foreign Minister Winston Peters said that $714.2 million in "additional operating funding" would be allocated to foreign aid, primarily in the Pacific.

The money will be spent responding to the challenges posed by climate change as well as providing access to health services, education and training for young Pacific Islanders.

"This is a clear demonstration to the international community that New Zealand is serious about addressing global and regional challenges and helping people in need," Mr Peters said.

He said there were "serious dangers and greater costs" in not investing in New Zealand's close neighbours.

"New Zealand's credibility as a humanitarian donor has been tested," he said, referring to the previous Government's relatively low aid support for multilateral and humanitarian agencies.

"Stepping up our financial contribution to multilateral institutions like the United Nations bodies and the World Bank will show New Zealand's seriousness in being a responsible international citizen."

The minister also announced a significant funding increase for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT), which he said would ensure the country can "adequately engage with the world and advance our interests at a critical time".

"This Government recognises the critical role the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade plays in keeping New Zealanders safe and prosperous," he said.

"New Zealand needs to rebuild expertise and resourcing to respond to an increasingly turbulent global environment."

MFAT will receive an operational expenditure increase of $150.4 million over the next four years, with an additional $40.3 million in capital expenditure.

Funding will go towards the creation of 50 new foreign policy positions as well as reopening a New Zealand embassy in Stockholm, Sweden. MFAT currently employs 248 staff members at 58 posts overseas, with 672 staff members based in New Zealand.

Mr Peters criticised the previous National-led Government for not adequately keeping up with the country's international challenges.

"The department tasked with that responsibility has been hollowed out and weakened as it was gutted of expertise and experience through a bungled restructure and years of underfunding," he said.

"New Zealanders are well aware of the international risks, and that New Zealand needs a voice on the world stage. It is important that our voice is heard in the right place at the right time to protect our interests."

Budget 2018 will be delivered on Thursday, May 17.

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