US-China competition: Blinken heading to New Zealand, Tonga, Australia

The State Department said Blinken would also attend the Fifa Women’s World Cup in Aotearoa.

But first, he will dedicate the US embassy in Tonga on Wednesday – a move many experts say is part of Washington’s plan to counter China’s growing influence in the Pacific.

In February, the US reopened its embassy in the Solomon Islands after a 30-year absence and is planning missions in Vanuatu and Kiribati.

Blinken will meet Prime Minister Chris Hipkins and Foreign Affairs Minister Nanaia Mahuta.

Warning of more cyclones for parts of Pacific as El Niño threatens

The region is forecast to experience an El Niño event, while some scientists have already said it has started.

La Niña is the cooling phase whereas El Niño is the warming phase of the waters in the eastern Pacific, off the coast of South America.

NIWA meteorologist Ben Noll said it means high levels of rainfall is likely for some places like Kiribati - that has been in a long drought - while parts of the western Pacific like Papua New Guinea should be dryer than normal.

World Bank highlights Pacific debt distress

The report, named Raising Pasifika: Strengthening Government Finances to Enhance Human Capital in the Pacific is a public expenditure review for Kiribati, Nauru, Marshall Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Palau, Samoa, Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu.

According to RNZ Pacific, the report's executive summary says the Covid-19 shock, combined with overlapping shocks from natural disasters and global inflation, risks reversing a decade of progress in building human capital across the Pacific.

Pacific leaders arrive in Port Moresby ahead of Modi and Blinken PNG visit

The leaders are set to meet with India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi and a high-level US delegation in Port Moresby on Monday.

PNG Prime Minister James Marape told local media on Thursday that President Joe Biden had called to apologise for his absence due to the need to return to Washington for meetings with Congressional leaders to raise its debt ceiling issue and avoid a default.

"He conveyed his sincerest apologies that he cannot make it into our country," Marape said.

Pacific politician says National's new RSE policy could double exploitation issue

Ex-Hastings District councilor Peleti Oli-Alainu’uese says the Regional Seasonal Employer (RSE) scheme is creating a form of “modern-day slavery” and any policy changes need to focus on improving working conditions. 

“We need to address the treatment of our workers, before we look at increasing the numbers, otherwise we’re just doubling the problem,” he says. 

“A lot is happening within this sector but RSE workers can’t really raise issues because they will be threatened to be sent back home to the islands - so it’s a real sticky situation."

Pacific pathway for sport a discussion point in PFL conference.

The conference included discussions across a range of topics around culture, health, education and sports.

PMN News reports Tall Blacks Coach Pero Cameron says the Pacific talent pool is large but needs to be nurtured.

​“It’s just exciting to be a part of this movement, it’s the first time having a sporting panel," he says. 

“They’ve asked to see how we can generate ideas and create bigger pathways for our talented kids.”

Today's panels included a focus on how important it is to create Pacific pathways in sport. 

Pacific kava sector anticipates export growth and eyes major global markets

Pacific kava exporters and farmers showcased this growth potential at the Pacific Week of Agriculture and Forestry (PWAF) taking place from 6-10 March in Nadi, Fiji.

Polyfest back after four years of cancellations and disruptions

Secondary school-aged performers were welcomed at a pōwhiri on Wednesday for the event's 48th anniversary.

RNZ reports Polyfest's theme this year is mana motuhake - creating one's own destiny.

Director Seiuli Terri Leo-Mauu said they were "very grateful" to be back, running live without interruptions.

"The vibe is so good," she told Morning Report on Thursday.

PTI supports Pacific SMEs Investment Readiness

The Investment Readiness Programme seeks to build a pipeline of bankable projects to attract foreign investment in established enterprises and start-ups.

PTI NZ will match the businesses with locally-based business advisory and accounting firms, to develop investment proposals for the companies.

The programme is funded by the Pacer Plus Implementation Unit.


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Employers 'must earn the right' to hire RSE workers

Equal Employment Opportunities Commissioner, Saunoamaalií Karanina Sumeo, who led an investigation into the mistreatment​ of RSE workers​ last year, says the issues "should have been addressed first" before the scheme resumed this year. 

PMN News reports she claims Pacific countries hold a special kind of power, because countries like New Zealand and Australia need workers more than workers need them.