I have just come back from a weekend in Samoa in my role as Chairman of the New Zealand Territorial Force Employers’ Support Council. I was up there having a look at an exercise involving New Zealand Defence Forces in a post cyclone disaster scenario. The exercise was very heavily medically orientated and encompassed the setting up of a full field hospital and working in outlying areas giving direct assistance to Samoans. Although it was an exercise designed to test facilities it doubled as an opportunity to provide health support to the Samoan community.
Our defence forces do a fantastic job in the Pacific Islands in the context of peacekeeping and nation building. The Kiwis are regarded as friends of the Pacific, we provide real support and assistance in our relaxed and involved kiwi style. The contingent in Samoa consisted of regular force, territorials (reserves) and community volunteers. They work well together as dedicated small teams providing support and assistance to the community. It was extremely rewarding to be able to see the real difference they were making in the brief time they were there.
New Zealand has a critical role to play in the South Pacific. Many of the South Pacific economies are unstable, economically poor and very much dependent on remittance flows from New Zealand and other countries. As these developing countries grow their economies they do need the support of a stable and relatively large economy like New Zealand and the sort of capability that defence can offer. While we have all been pre-occupied by the events in London around the Olympics and the sterling performances by New Zealand in that context, I was extremely proud to see the real and unique contribution we are making in the Pacific.