[Labour MP Sua Mr William] Sio has just returned from a trip to [Kiribati and Tuvalu] to look at the impact of rising sea levels.
He says the main impact is the concentration of population putting pressure on scarce resources like drinking water which is in turn being affected by the rising sea water table.
Currently New Zealand has an immigration quota of 75 for Tuvalu and Kiribati.
“On Tuvalu there’s a total population of 12,000 and 6000 of them live on Funafuti (the main island) and there’s just not enough room,” he said.
“The Prime Minister (of Tuvalu) said to me, the numbers are small but they can have a really striking impact.”
He is proposing what he calls a programme of ”Migration with Dignity” which could see New Zealand assist with education and pre-immigration training in the islands for people without the skills and qualifications to easily qualify for immigration.
“They don’t want to lose all their brightest and smartest,” he said.
“They still need them to run the Government.
“So the Government Ministers I met agreed that we need to grow the education skill base and look at the mobility of labour.”
He said that both governments of Kiribati and Tuvalu regard migration as a last resort.
“Notwithstanding that I think that for a future Government which wants to stand and support the Pacific you have to plan for that emergency and that disaster but hoping that the disaster doesn’t happen and allow for the gradual movement of people.”
He said he was surprised because had expected that the Governments would be saying everybody wanted to leave.
“But they actually didn’t.
“Yes, they want to migrate but they also want to be able to come back to their homes.
“They want their homes protected.”
But on the bigger picture of the impact climate change is having on the sea levels he said that if New Zealand wanted to stand with the Pacific it had to walk the talk and be bigger and braver about reducing its carbon emissions.
Mr Sio’s trip is an interesting move by Labour which has been accused of taking the Pacific vote for granted.
Looks like another Helen Clark inspired move to make NZ look palatable to the UN. Because here’s another view, which won’t be popular with those holding the begging bowls. Read more »