The new net goes fishing: Nanaia Mahuta discusses how and why Aotearoa New Zealand will build on the Pacific Reset towards a Pacific Resilience approach.

AuthorMahuta, Nanaia

In this article I will share the next steps that I intend to take to reinforce the centrality of the Pacific and our outlook over the next few years. Aotearoa New Zealand draws its whakapapa connection from Polynesia. Our whanaungatanga reinforces our special relationship to Te-Moana-nuia-Kiwa, the blue ocean continent. Our voyaging legacy of our Polynesian forebears is a story of endurance and resilience. Our recent history also connects us to the United Kingdom, the early establishment of government in New Zealand and the Treaty of Waitangi/ Te Tiriti o Waitangi as our founding document.

First, let me take a moment to share a whakatauaki that is a metaphor well understood across the Pacific: ka pu te ruha, ka hao te rangatahi/as the old net is cast aside a new net goes fishing. When we consider the importance of the moana and the resources of the marine environment, fishing is a vital activity to ensure the survival of people and communities. The net is an enduring symbolism of the resilience of people to sustain themselves. The imagery of the old and new net convey inter-generational knowledge passing on. Consider elders, kaumatua and kuia reinforcing connection, identity and knowledge through the active practices of traditions such as fishing, weaving, sustainable harvesting, understanding the natural environment and caring for the whanau. Then we begin to gain an appreciation for the endurance and resilience of Pacific people and their culture.

This has been an extraordinary period where a global pandemic has disrupted our way of life in so many ways. We are meeting on a virtual platform and increasingly have had to change the way we participate in forums and share our perspectives. But just as we have shaped our response to COVID-19 and the uncertainty it has created, we have adapted and continued to move towards creating the 'new normal' way of life.

Our connection to the Pacific is reflected through language, peoples, ocean, history, culture, politics and shared interests. Together, we share kaitiaki responsibilities for Te Moana-nui-a-Kiwa--the blue ocean continent. This concept is enduring and inter-generational: what we do for our children today, sets the course for our tamariki and mokopuna. When we consider livelihoods we speak to inter-generational objectives.

The centrality of the Pacific for Aotearoa New Zealand means a common stance to ensure a peaceful, stable, prosperous and resilient Pacific, one in which our country is seen as a partner. As we navigate our engagement in the region --across our foreign policy, trade, development and security partnerships--we need to draw on all the tools available in our kete to support our way forward.

Pacific reset

The Pacific Reset was a deliberate decision by the government to focus on the Pacific in our world outlook. The reset acknowledged that New Zealand's priority and future is linked to the Pacific and, therefore, we have a key interest in a safe, secure and prosperous region. Security in the region relies on strong relationships. The approach recognised the importance of partnership between Aotearoa New Zealand and Pacific nations and the 'reset' gave coherence and focus to more than 30 government agencies working with Pacific neighbours. This in turn sought to bolster the influence of likeminded partners in the region.

It also acknowledged that the region is facing an array of challenges and changes: social, environmental, security and economic. And this has not changed. In fact, the arrival of COVID-19 to our globe has severely hindered the progress for some Pacific Islands nations. As those at COP26 highlighted, climate change remains the single biggest threat to the region. But COVID has exacerbated issues of equality and need, set back development gains and highlighted the importance of support that delivers sustainable results.

The move towards a resilience focus is a natural next step as we look at how to respond...

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