NZ First leader Peters shows NZ a friend of Fiji and the Pa­cific

Fiji Sun - - COMMENT - NE­MANI DE­LAIBATIKI Feed­back: ne­­laibatiki@fi­

New Zealand First Party leader and Min­is­ter for For­eign Af­fairs, Win­ston Peters, has suc­cess­fully lob­bied for a Pa­cific travel bub­ble and it could hap­pen soon.

He told the New Zealand me­dia that it is weeks away. It is un­der­stood that it will co­in­cide with the start of the NZ school hol­i­days on July 6.

That will al­low NZ fam­i­lies to travel for their usual Pa­cific hol­i­days. In win­ter many Kiwi fam­i­lies head to the trop­ics for sun­shine, a warmer cli­mate and a pris­tine en­vi­ron­ment. Fiji is among their favourite des­ti­na­tions. An av­er­age of 180,000 Ki­wis hol­i­day in Fiji ev­ery year.

The Pa­cific travel bub­ble is great news to many ho­tel work­ers and em­ploy­ees of sec­ondary in­dus­tries who have lost their jobs be­cause of COVID-19. It is ex­actly what Min­is­ter for Econ­omy and At­tor­ney Gen­eral, Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum, had sought when he said NZ and Aus­tralia should not treat Fiji and other small is­land states as “sec­ond class” in the Transtas­man bub­ble talk.

NZ Prime Min­is­ter, Jacinda Ardern, had ear­lier in­di­cated that the Pa­cific would be in­cluded in a travel bub­ble with Aus­tralia. That would not hap­pen soon be­cause Aus­tralia is not COVID-19 free like Fiji and the rest of the Pachfic.

There is a strong case there for a Pa­cific bub­ble first while NZ waits for Aus­tralia to be­come COVID-19 free. From an eco­nomic per­spec­tive New Zealand de­pends on Aus­tralia for its tourism in­dus­try. That’s why it is in­ter­ested in a bub­ble with the Aussies. Mr Peters, a vet­eran of New Zealand pol­i­tics, has shown that NZ is a friend of the Pa­cific. His an­nounce­ment of the bub­ble would ap­peal to more than 300, 000 Pa­cific peo­ple liv­ing in NZ who feel for their fam­i­lies and rel­a­tives hit hard by the eco­nomic im­pact of COVID-19 in the is­lands.

While he gen­uinely takes keen in­ter­est in Pa­cific is­sues there could be a sil­ver lin­ing here for Mr Peters whose party is strug­gling in the lat­est pub­lic opin­ion polls with the gen­eral elec­tion only months away. As a ju­nior part­ner to Ms Ardern’s Labour Party in the coali­tion Gover­ment, ques­tions are be­ing asked whether he could hold his ground in the com­ing elec­tion,

Right now, Mr Peters is the flavour of the mo­ment for Pa­cific Is­lan­ders and Ki­wis who do busi­ness with the is­lands.

He has re­sponded pos­i­tively to the wish of Fiji and the Pa­cific.

His move will kick­start the tourism in­dus­try in the re­gion. It’s ex­actly what Fiji has been hop­ing for..

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