Good evening to all/ Bonsoir a tous!
I am delighted to join you this evening to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the existence of the New Zealand High Commission and to congratulate High Commissioner Georgina and her predecessors for their leadership in the work of the high commission since its humble beginning in 1987. It is indeed a great pleasure to address you tonight on behalf of the Government of the Republic of Vanuatu on this memorable occasion.
Excellencies ladies and Gentlemen allow me to take us back briefly to history when the High Commission was first established in Vanuatu. Following establishment of diplomatic relations between the two countries Wellington’s interest with Vanuatu was managed through a Non-resident high commissioner based in Honiara Solomon Islands. It was not until May 1987 that the first high commissioner, Tony Brown flew to Port Vila from England to present its credentials to the then President of the Republic of Vanuatu Ati George Sokomanu. The High Commission office premises located at the 2nd floor of the Prouds jewellery building, was officially inaugurated on October 1987 in the presence of the late Prime Minister Hon. Father Walter Lini and the New Zealand Foreign Minister Russel Marshall who spoke on the occasion. There were 8 high commissioners who served from 1987 until 2013 when High Commissioner Georgina Roberts was appointed to serve as the current high commissioner to Vanuatu.
Today marks the 30th anniversary of the establishment of the high commission in Vanuatu and 10th anniversary of the RSE seasonal workers scheme, a key feature of New Zealand development program to Vanuatu.
The opening of a diplomatic presence in Vanuatu is evidence of New Zealand Government commitment towards strengthening our close relations and historical ties and clear reflection of our joint commitment to strengthening economic link and expanding cooperation. On this note I wish to express on behalf of the people and government of Vanuatu our heartfelt gratitude to the NZ High Commission for its contribution towards Vanuatu’s development through its ODA program the RSE workers scheme and the development of tourism.
Excellency with the support of the high commission’s office, Vanuatu’s relation with New Zealand has been strengthened over the years, especially in relation to your Government’s willingness and readiness to respond to Vanuatu’s national development aspiration and priorities. Your generous programme of development assistance to Vanuatu has, I understand, been increasing in terms of volume and recently efforts have been made to tailor its orientation to better responds to circumstances of Vanuatu’s development requirements as reflected in the Joint Commitment for Development signed by the two governments.
The role play by New Zealand towards promoting, peace, development and stability in the South Pacific is acknowledged with appreciation. We believe that we should continue with our collective vigilance to ensure that our region remains and continues to develop into an area of peace, stability and prosperity in future years to come. Vanuatu, I assure you, will continue to play its part in this respect.
Focus on economic issues, development and cooperation in the region, as you know, is gaining more prominence in our bilateral and regional exchanges of views. Vanuatu particularly welcomes these trends, because we continue to share the view that socio-economic advancements in the region will underpin the stability of our island states in the medium and longer- term future.
On this note let me once again express the deep gratitude of the Government and people of Vanuatu for the generous assistance that your Government, Excellency, continue to give to Vanuatu. And I am making specific reference to the growing number of Ni- Vanuatu Seasonal workers, the on- going financial assistance towards infrastructure projects, Education and scholarship, defence program, Law and Justice program, rural water supply, energy sector and tourism. We are particularly grateful that this assistance well managed by the high commission is directed mainly to support our development strategies and objectives, especially those in our National Sustainable Development Plan.
I also wish to make specific note of your Government’s speedy responses to our calls for assistance in our time of special needs. Your generous donations along with other donations from other Governments and international agencies have helped us tremendously in our national rehabilitation programme. Once again I extend to your Government the sincere appreciation of my Government and the people of Vanuatu. The high commission role and contribution to this end must be applauded.
Vanuatu regards New Zealand as a friend and a country whose historical heritage and contemporary experiences offer a lot to admire and to learn from. This acknowledgement is reflected in the desire of Vanuatu to pursue and developed ties of friendship and cooperation with New Zealand inspite of our rich and diverse historical and contemporary outlooks.
To conclude I wish to pay tribute to high Commissioner Georgina Roberts for her steering leadership of the high commission and to congratulate her for her efforts, her contribution to the welfare of the people of Vanuatu, the security of Vanuatu and the socio-economic development of Vanuatu by ensuring a fast and efficient implementation of the NZ Aid program.
Georgina, you will be missed by your Vanuatu closest friend and also to Vanuatu as a whole but we are wishing you a pleasant future back in NZ and we hope the cold season of NZ will not dampen your spirit and will remind you of some of the great moment spent in Vanuatu.
Excellency may the spirit of the Christmas fill your home with peace, joy and love. And on behalf of the Government and the people of the Republic of Vanuatu, I wish you and your good husband, a merry Christmas and a prosperous new year 2018.
Thank you for your attention.