Earlier this year the coalition described how it was 'shifting the dial' with a Pacific Reset to restore New Zealand's relationships in the Pacific. In May, the coalition also announced through Budget 2018 its 'First Steps' to restore lost capability and capacity in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade.
President Roosevelt once noted that 'the Pacific Islands appear as small dots on the map or not at all. But they cover a large strategic area'. This is as true today as it was in the 1940s, particularly given increasing competition for influence and resources in the Pacific.
Against this backdrop, our eyes are wide open to New Zealand's decreasing influence in the Pacific and we are committed to re-setting our approach to working with the Pacific. We want to be clear though--the reset is not about trying to control Pacific countries economically or politically. Instead, this reset is about working with our Pacific family to be independent and self-sufficient.
Some people might question why we should bother spending time and valuable taxpayer dollars doing this. From a purely economic standpoint this approach makes sense--every dollar spent today in the Pacific reduces the risk of expensive interventions in the future, whether military, border security or healthcare.
But this is also about doing what is right. New Zealand's has a proud history of standing up for fairness, good governance, democracy, the rule of law, human rights, free media, and sustainable and fair economic development. We will do what is right in the Pacific in a pragmatic way--avoiding the pitfalls of both dreamy ivory tower idealism and zero sum power politics.
Our commitment to taking pragmatic action is clear in the $714 million increase in official development assistance announced in this year's budget. This increase in overseas development assistance is also complemented by the addition of 50 foreign affairs positions in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade.
As we stated in the Pacific reset policy, the government's objective is change and not a modified status quo. We are seeking new approaches, not putting new labels on the same old bottles. This applies with our aid funding.
We seek to redefine New Zealand's influence in the region in several ways. One way is by investing in footprint projects which last for 50 years or longer. And these projects are not in isolation: they are partner projects with our friends be it from Europe, Japan or Australia.
A further example of our stepped-up approach will be our support for a Kiribati land reclamation project as a response to the existential threat of climate change. In June the government of Kiribati said it is moving ahead with plans for reclaiming and climate proofing 300 hectares of land in Tarawa for housing. It will significantly improve the country's climate change resilience. The New Zealand government will assist with this project, particularly because of its practical...