New Zealand offers Pacific island nations help to maintain water supplies

WELLINGTON, (PNA/Xinhua) — The New Zealand government on Wednesday announced an initiative to improve management of drinking water in five low-lying Pacific island countries.

“For a number of Pacific countries, access to safe, clean drinking water is not guaranteed. Ensuring communities and businesses can access clean drinking water will go a long way to improving people’s health and livelihoods,” said Prime Minister John Key, who is attending the annual Pacific Islands Forum in the Marshall Islands.

“As part of a practical solution, we have entered into a new five-year partnership with the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC) to improve water security in Tuvalu, Tokelau, Kiribati, the Cook Islands and the Republic of the Marshall Islands,” Key said in a statement.

“This project will focus on practical steps such as ensuring gutters are properly connected to storage tanks, maintaining storage facilities and training national water security officers to monitor water levels and help communities be better prepared for water shortages.”

Low-lying island nations were particularly susceptible to salt water inundation, and the lack of natural catchments, ground water, rivers, streams, and extreme weather also compromised their water resources.

“On top of the human and health difficulties, water issues hold these economies back, through everything from crop failures, to the difficulty of establishing tourist industries when they can’t rely on a good supply of safe water,” Key said.

The government would give 5 million NZ dollars (US$ 3.9 million) to the SPC to allocate to each country.

The program was expected to start within six months, with funding spread across the full five years.

“New Zealand’s commitment to improving water infrastructure and management in the Pacific is an important part of our climate change support to the region. We have committed to, and invested more than 40 million NZ dollars over the last three years in a range of practical water related initiatives,” Key said.

“At last year’s forum, we announced that New Zealand would work with the Cook Islands and Chinese governments to improve the water infrastructure on Rarotonga. This major project will deliver safe drinking water to all homes and businesses on Rarotonga, the tourist and economic hub of the Cook Islands, by 2015.”