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Pictured: Minister for International Trade and Investment, Richard Maru and New Zealand Minister for Agriculture, Hunting and Fishing, Forestry, and Trade, Todd McClay. (SUPPLIED IMAGE)

The Minister for International Trade and Investment, Richard Maru in his bilateral meeting with the New Zealand Minister for Agriculture, Hunting and Fishing, Forestry, and Trade, Todd McClay in Auckland on Tuesday stated that Papua New Guinea (PNG) and New Zealand needed to reset their relationship.  

Minister Maru proposed to Minister McClay that Governments of both countries needed to negotiate a comprehensive, economic, and development partnership under a proper agreement where there were obligations on both sides.

“The time has come for PNG and New Zealand to seriously sit down and review the past 50 years of our relationship and talk about a new framework that is more comprehensive and one that will bring far more benefit to both countries.” Minister Maru said.  

“In terms of trade, the trade between our two countries has been in New Zealand’s favor on a ratio of 1:10 for a very long time. They benefit more from our economy than we have from theirs. If they are serious about their future with us, then they need to understand that we need a new agreement like we do with the Australian Government called the Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement.” He stated.  

Minister Maru stressed that it is time PNG have such agreement with New Zealand where there are obligations on both sides.

“we offer them jobs, market opportunities, and investment opportunities, and in return we want to see air services between our two countries, more students studying in New Zealand under scholarship programs of the New Zealand Government, and we want to see more Papua New Guineans coming to New Zealand for long-term employment in industries that are important to us like dairy, inland fishing, poultry, and others,” Minister Maru elaborated.

Minister Maru also raised a concern to Minister McClay on the number of the Papua New Guineans employed under New Zealand’s Recognized Seasonal Employer (RSE) Scheme.

“We have 400 workers employed in New Zealand under the RSE Scheme whilst Vanuatu alone has 6,000. This is a serious concern to us because we think that PNG is a far more important partner to New Zealand in terms of trade volume, but the numbers do not add up.” He said.

“The feedback we have received from the farms in New Zealand is that Papua New Guinean employees perform very well. We only have 400 people employed in New Zealand under the RSE Scheme, but the demand is so high as we have over 30, 000 young people coming out of Grade 12 every year.” He added.

Minister Maru further stated that Australia has introduced a new program under which they not only employ farm workers but also skilled workers who are offered a contract up to four years.

“That for us is better because they mentor them and develop them with skills that they can return with to PNG. We are keen on such longer-term program with New Zealand where Papua New Guinea graduate students in agriculture or fisheries can be employed in New Zealand industries for four years and learn from them so they can return to PNG and become leaders in our own industries.” He said.

Minister Maru also met and invited potential New Zealand investors to invest in the Special Economic Zones in PNG.

“We need industries that New Zealand is renowned for, like poultry, dairy, and aquaculture. Poultry is one of the areas that we are seriously looking at because we do not want to continue to import K100 million worth of chicken every year. We want a New Zealand company to come and invest in this space because it is an industry that they are very good at,” Minister Maru said.

“Not only are we looking at investments, but we feel that the time has come for the Agriculture Ministers of both countries to enter into formal MOU for an agriculture cooperation that will be an important framework that PNG can utilize to secure New Zealand’s support for the development of agriculture and livestock industries in PNG.” He further stated.

“We have just recently exported our first taros to New Zealand after 50 years of trying. We want to also export our yams, sweet potatoes, bananas, our coffee, and other products including tuna to New Zealand especially targeting the 400, 000 islanders living in New Zealand. The biggest obstacle is having no direct flights between our two countries and that is something our two Governments need to look at addressing as a matter of priority if we are serious about the future of our relationship.”

It is noted that despite having an Air Service Agreement, PNG and New Zealand do not have an airline flying between the two countries.

Minister Maru also expressed to Minister McClay that PNG needed assistance from the New Zealand Government to reform its Capital Market.

“We are looking at modeling our new legislation and regulations on the back of the New Zealand experience. We want to be able to send young and professional Papua New Guineans to work in New Zealand Financial Market Authority (FMA) and work with the FMA to develop our capital market,” Minister Maru said.

 “Our focus now will be to develop our relationship with New Zealand businesses, people, and institutions. Connection has been a serious issue in our relationship. We do not have flight connectivity between our two countries, and our Kumuls do not even play the Kiwis annually. We want to work on this relationship which we have not worked on in the last 50 years. It is better late than never.” Minister Maru stated.

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