While in Majuro he offered support to the marshall in chairing the Pacific Forum meeting next year.
Mr McCully also stopped in Kiribati and Tuvalu this week.
Speaker:Murray McCully, Foreign Minister, New Zealand
MCCULLY: We've provided some cash that will support them with administrative work for the Forum. We're open to doing a little more in terms of logistical support as well. It's going to depend on the actual size of the event. If it's anything like the size we saw in the Cook Islands this year or Auckland last year then it'll seriously test them and we'll have to revise our thinking.
COUTTS: We've spoken to the local media recently who are saying that accommodation could be a serious issue, was that discussed?
MCCULLY: Yes it certainly was, that's the most obvious place in which they'll be pushed if there's a significant turnout of delegates. It's fair to say that even looking at the hotel accommodation that's available with an optimistic view, and then looking at the private accommodation they might be able to round up, if they have anything close to the numbers we saw in Rarotonga they're going to need something on top of that, and that will probably call for New Zealand and Australia to lend further support. We've made a contribution of a couple of hundred thousand dollars, that's the sort of thing we do for our Pacific neighbours who are hosting an event like this. But as I say that's something we'll revise upwards with logistical support if they need it.
COUTTS: Now the Forum you have hosted, being New Zealand has hosted it in the past, so you're aware of what it entails. Are you confident that Marshall Islands can do that as well?
MCCULLY: Yes they can but I think we always need to be realistic about the challenges that smaller Pacific nations have when they're hosting an event of this sort. And particularly the size of event we've seen in the last couple of years. So we've got to make sure that we just get around them and help with the support systems that they need. We'll have some officials going up there to share our own experience of the hosting of the Forum. I know that the Cook Islands will be making available senior officials who were involved in managing this year's event. But we're also looking at the accommodation issue in particular, that's going to be the big ticket item that will require very careful monitoring.
COUTTS: What kind of solutions can there be to the accommodation?
MCCULLY: We've seen various solutions in the past, you can put military vessels that have got accommodation on them. Somewhere handy you can even look at a small cruise liner, those are the sorts of options that would come into play I guess if the scale of the event looked like it was going to call for it.
COUTTS: Should it be scaled down? Are they getting too big anyway?
MCCULLY: Well I think that's a very fair question. I think the Marshalls have indicated that they would want a bit of discipline and rigour around the size of delegations this year having regard for their size and their capacities. Now that's not unusual actually, for example Niue hosted a few years ago and that presented even more significant challenges. And so host countries can communicate and get some sort of agreement amongst the players as to how we're going to deal with it all collectively. Those are conversations that have now started and we'll tailor our support according to the outcome of the discussions now underway.
COUTTS: You also Mr McCully went to Kiribati and Tuvalu, two of the smaller countries that are being impacted mostly by climate change. New Zealand has declined to sign on to the Kyoto Protocol. Was that something that you discussed with them?
MCCULLY: Only very much in passing. The situation in both Kiribati and Tuvalu is such that they are very focussed on practical issues, in Kiribati in particular on Tarawa, you're dealing with the great humanitarian challenge of our region, it's as bad as you'll see pretty much in any part of the world in the toughest part of Bairiki village in Tarawa. And they're not talking about climate change in that context, they're talking about what can be done to improve the immediate livelihoods of people there. And New Zealand in the last few years's stepped up, probably increased by about ten fold our aid program because we recognise the importance of addressing that challenge.
COUTTS: And was the message the same in Kiribati and Tuvalu?
MCCULLY: Well in Tuvalu you don't have the same immediate humanitarian challenge. I mean you've got a reasonably stable population of about ten-thousand and some quite significant challenges with the spring tides in particular swamping the place. But in Kiribati you're dealing with as I say the great humanitarian challenge of our region, 55-thousand people living in very dense populations on a very narrow string of atolls. And we as a region need to do more to try and address that challenge, and New Zealand's certainly trying to do its bit. We've seen some improvements here actually since I was last there, but we've also seen the pressures get greater. So that's something for us as a region to contend with.
COUTTS: Well if you don't think the Kyoto Protocol is one of the solutions, what are the solutions?
MCCULLY: Well I'm just saying if you go to Bairiki Village it's not what they're talking about, they're looking at more immediate issues. One of the things that we discussed in each of the places I called was the renewable energy summit that New Zealand and the EU will be hosting in the early part of next year in late March. That's something that's designed to get the renewable energy strategies of the Pacific nations in front of the major donors, not just the EU, but New Zealand, Australia, Japan, the World Bank, the Asian Development Bank and others because one of the most tangible things we can do about climate change in the region is to actually shift these countries away from the almost total dependence in some cases on fossil fuels for electricity towards renewables. It's not that hard, it's not that big but it hasn't been happening, and we as a region need to address that challenge and that's something I hope that we'll be able to take a significant step forward on next year.