Monday, March 30, 2009

Simbu highlands doco maker gives through training

By Josephine Latu: Pacific Media Centre

Award-winning filmmaker Verena Thomas hopes to give something back to the Papua New Guinean people who had welcomed her five years ago while filming a documentary in the Simbu* highlands.

Thomas, currently enrolled in a doctorate programme at the University of Technology, Sydney, is completing a pilot project to train Papua New Guineans through participatory filmmaking.

She spoke at New Zealand's AUT University during a special screening of her 2007 documentary, Papa Bilong Chimbu, hosted by the Pacific Media Centre.

The film portrays the life of her German great-uncle, Father John Nilles, who travelled to PNG in 1937 as a Catholic missionary, and made Simbu his home for the next 54 years.

“When I showed it to the locals I saw how excited people were about video and to see themselves on screen. I felt there should be more films about Papua New Guinea,” she said.

She is now working closely with Mike Mel at the University of Goroka on a project to train new filmmakers through a participatory approach.

They expect to produce at least three short films as an outcome.

Negative image
Thomas was also concerned about the negative image in the Australian media about their Melanesian neighbour.

“Australians don’t have a good idea of what Papua New Guinea is really like,” she said.

“What comes through the media is usually about Port Moresby and crime - bad things.”

Film was an “empowering” avenue for Papua New Guineans to tell their own positive stories.

Participants at the AUT screening also discussed the issue of development, highlighting the role of missionaries such as John Nilles and making comparisons to today.

“By and large, missionaries were in there for the long haul, not like some aid workers nowadays who come in for a short time, and then move on to the next job at the UN or World Bank,” said John Woodward, a member of the audience.

He had lived in Papua New Guinea with his family for seven years in the 1970s, setting up an electrical engineering department in one of the schools.

Verena Thomas added that for researchers, including filmmakers, there is a duty to consult and give back to the community being studied.

“You don’t just go in there. There are certain responsibilities you take on board when you do that,” she said.

* The film’s title uses an older version of the province’s name – Chimbu rather than the present day Simbu. Picture: Verena Thomas at the Pacific Media Centre screening. Photo: Del Abcede.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Fiji media review calls for 'proactive' role on standards

By Josephine Latu: Pacific Media Watch

An independent review initiated by the Fiji Media Council has called for serious improvements in the council’s operations.

The review, made public in Fiji last week, challenged the council to be more “proactive” in attaining journalistic standards, promoting ethical codes, and “to be seen as a body committed equally to press freedom and press responsibility”.

Recommendations include patching up an inefficient complaints process, dealing out tougher penalties as a self-regulatory body, hiring a permanent and paid executive secretary, and doubling its funding.

The Fiji Media Council initiated the review in response to public criticism, including a controversial and damning report by Hawai’i-based academic Dr James Anthony, organised by the Fiji Human Rights Commission (FHRC) in 2007.

The military-backed interim government last year vowed to introduce a media “promulgation” law and the draft is believed to be based in part on some Anthony report recommendations widely condemned by news organisations.

Written by three nominated consultants - Australian Press Council executive secretary Jack Herman, consultant on environmental issues Suliana Siwaibatu and attorney Barrie Sweetman - the new review was conducted during February.

The review team considered 26 submissions from members of the public, NGOs, members of government as well as media representatives plus other reports and documents.
The panel also conducted its own interviews.

While commending current council chair Daryl Tarte over his efforts, the review noted a strong dissatisfaction apparent in many submissions. These held that “the Media Council has not performed to its own high ideals”, especially over media responsibility.

The review noted that this was partly because of a lack of financial support for the council, but also “largely a result of the fact that the council has not pursued more vigorously, or adequately followed up, outcomes of the complaints process”.

It called for all media organisations to be more committed to upholding journalistic and ethical standards.

Key review recommendations include:

• Improving the complaints process by:
- Appointing a paid executive secretary to deal with complaints quickly and attentively;
- Offering face-to-face mediation as an alternative dispute resolution;
- Clarifying the basis of complaints;
- Supplementing adjudication with a "series of graduated penalties", including censure; and
- Allowing public members of the council to act as media monitors.

• Cultivating relationships with government in the interest of media freedom. The Department of Information, as a member of the council, also needs to use this opportunity to foster a positive relationship with media.

• More responsibility to the general public through:
- Promoting the council by reporting regularly to the public through NGOs, website and forums;
- Actively pursuing its own objectives of improving media standards and condemning ethical breaches; and
- Encouraging public members to raise issues of concern, and even act as mediators in the complaints process.

• Better administration through:
- Appointing a paid administrator (executive secretary) on a permanent part-time - but preferably full-time - position, along with an equipped office and on a fixed salary equivalent to F$20,000-F$30,000 a year;
- Revising the role of the council chair to play no part in the adjudication process, and fixing an
honorarium of F$6000-F$10,000 for the position.

• Recommendations for funding:
- Stronger support from media organisations in order to be effective. The review “does not think
the media meet their own standard for self-regulation at this time”;
- Double income (at least) by increasing fees, but still not relying on any government funding;
- Further pressure on non-member media organisations, including online news sites such as Fiji
Village and Fijilive, to join the council and support its aims through “fees and commitment”;
- Holding an annual meeting for member media organisations to discuss budget; and
- Looking to NGOs and national and international aid agencies for sponsorship of projects such as training and forums.

• Other recommendations:
- Current Fiji Media Council membership is 19. As membership increases to an unwieldy size,
this may be reduced to five industry members (one representing journalists themselves), five public members and the chair;
- Public membership should be advertised as widely as possible and nominees undergo a screening process;
- Representation of journalist and advertising associations on the council;
- Promote more media training and address journalists’ low starting salary;
- Clarify the council’s corporate status in the constitution – it should be a company limited by
guarantee rather than a company limited by shareholding;
- Campaign for a Freedom of Information law; and
- Encourage higher media standards as part of Fiji’s nation-building process.

Full text of the Fiji Media Council review at Pacific Media Watch

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Quiet Papuan 'father' takes on military with his pen

By Jessica Harkins: Pacific Media Centre

At first glance, Father Neles Tebay isn’t the kind of man you would think is under military surveillance. He’s a “father” after all.

He’s not a vigilante, militant or “terrorist”. He’s a theologian and a writer – a good one. In Indonesia, this warrants being watched, constantly.

He doesn’t write about violence or retribution. Nor does he advocate these things.

Like many of his ilk, he writes about dialogue. Something people in the West often take for granted that everyone has an opportunity to share.

When did Fr Tebay first know he was “of interest” to the Indonesian government?

“In 1986, the Indonesian military went to a public market to ask about me. They asked: ‘Where is Neles?’,” he recalls.

“They already knew where I stayed - at that time I was a student.

“They did it in order to frighten me, or terrorise me.”

Did it work?

“No”. He pauses. “No I think they failed in this.”

Important role
Fr Tebay’s mission, under military scrutiny or not, is to raise awareness in his own community, and around the world, about the struggle for autonomy in West Papua.

He has no qualms about saying what he means.

Maire Leadbeater, a spokesperson for the Auckland-based Indonesia Human Rights Committee (IHRC) and a tireless activist in her own right, who met Fr Tebay just this week, says: “He certainly doesn’t mince his words.”

“Fr Tebay is taken very seriously in his country. His role is important.”

Fr Tebay’s main concern in his homeland is the apparent failure of Law 21/2001. This is supposed to have granted Papua province special autonomy from the Indonesian state to oversee its own affairs.

Despite this law, there are proposals to divide West Papua into four smaller provinces, and in recent months the military presence in Papua has been increased visibly.

Fr Tebay has said the move to further split Papua will “only serve the needs of new bureaucrats and would do nothing to address the pressing problems of poverty, an inadequate education system, environmental destruction, poor health care and the spread of HIV/AIDS.”

He adds: “Militarisation is going on. More troops are being deployed in West Papua, more military security posts are established. There are three more battalions, around 700-1000 more troops.”

He criticises the actions of the military, calling them arrogant.

“They can hit anyone, anytime, anywhere, with or without reason,” he says.

“It’s enough to say ‘he is a separatist’ and…”

“That’s why the Papuans are traumatised when they see the military,” he says.

Peace, justice
Fr Tebay is in New Zealand to take part in public discussion about environmental sustainability, as well as the issues close to his heart of peace and justice in West Papua.

Kevin McBride of the international Catholic peace organisation Pax Christi, which is hosting Father Tebay, is disappointed in media exposure about the issue in New Zealand.

“It’s virtually nil, but it’s hidden deliberately by the Indonesian government,” he says.

McBride says foreign journalists are banned from entering the province for “security reasons” - but that doesn’t mean they don’t try.

Four Dutch journalists travelled to the Papuan capital of Jayapura to report on an independence protest this week. They were arrested and detained at a police station for more than 12 hours.

One of the journalists has been released and has returned to Jakarta, but the other three still have not had their passports returned and are not allowed to leave Papua until police investigations into their reporting of a major Papuan demonstration calling for independence are completed.

They are also not allowed to report until the investigation is over, police say.

McBride says that on the Wellington leg of Fr Tebay’s tour of New Zealand, they will pay a brief courtesy visit to the Indonesian Embassy.

A search of the New Zealand Herald website for articles on West Papua yielded only one incorrect reference to plans for transmigration of peoples into West Papua.

Transmigration, a scheme by the Indonesian government to relocate poor people from over-populated areas of Indonesia to West Papua, was implemented in the 1960s and has now ceased - although there is still spontaneous migration into the area, according to Fr Tebay.

Suspect opinions
“When you want to raise your opinion, usually you are suspected of being a separatist,” says Fr Tebay.

He adds that the stigma of being a separatist is a risk factor for the Papuans, especially with the stepped up military presence in the region.

Over the years, Fr Tebay has written opinion pieces for the Jakarta Post, as well as news articles for some of his local newspapers.

Now he questions the impact of his writing.

“There is no guarantee. No guarantee that my articles would be read by the right people.

“I just wrote hoping that somebody would read it, or hoping that government people would read it, and that perhaps it would change their policy,” he says.

Maire Leadbeater says New Zealand should be able to play a role in independence negotiations because of our own colonial history.

“Historical grievances need to be faced,” she says.

“That’s why I get upset with our government sometimes,”

“We should be at the forefront in the push for justice in historical crime,” she says.

“They are immense crimes against humanity,” she says of West Papua’s history with Indonesia.

Sony Ambudi, also of the IHRC and the Mt Eden Islamic Information Centre, describes Father Tebay as an academic researcher and not only a priest.

“Being a researcher is fundamental in giving strong evidence on every human rights violation,” he says.

“He is a man in the field, a real campaigner.”

Fact file

The Indonesian policy on West Papua since the end of World War Two has been focused on Papua being part of its claim over former Dutch Territories.

In 1962, the Netherlands brokered a deal with the Indonesian government and handed the territory over, with the promise that in five years time the people of West Papua would be given an act of self-determination overseen by the United Nations.

In 1969, Indonesia and the UN conducted a referendum called the Act of Free Choice, now widely criticised as a sham and labelled the “Act of No Choice”.

Less than 1 percent of the population voted under severe duress and violent threats. The unanimous result? Stay within Indonesia.

The Free Papua Movement (OPM) has waged a sporadic guerrilla struggle since the 1960s for independence.

Photo of Father Neles Tebay by Jessica Harkins. Jessica Harkins is a student journalist on the Asia-Pacific Journalism course at AUT University.

A Neles Tebay article
Jakarta Post

Undersea volcano, climate change step up turtle worries

By Olivia Wix: Pacific Media Centre

An undersea volcanic eruption off the coast of Tonga this month worries marine biologists over a risk to Pacific feeding grounds for sea turtles.

The volcano spewed ash into the sea and into the air near the low-lying volcanic islands of Hunga Tonga and Hunga Ha’apai.

The area is a common turtle feeding ground for some turtle species.

Massey University vulcanologist Dr Jerome Lecointre says an event like this can have severe consequences for species within the sea.

He says the eruption may have killed many nearby creatures.

“The eruption was sudden. There was no warning and people couldn’t do anything to lessen the impact,” he says.

Dr Lecointre says the heat of the water would be the most devastating to the marine life.

“At the surface it was boiling, it would have been much hotter in the sea,” he says.

The water continues to boil until the volcano stops erupting.

“It makes sense that the marine life would be killed. The eruption would have had much more devastating effects if it was land-based.”

Population decline
Sea turtle populations have been on the decline for years, although fears surrounding the impacts of climate change on them are only now being realised.

World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP) believe an increase in extreme weather events, rising sea levels and increased temperatures are the main contributing factors towards the decline of the turtle populations.

The “red list” classifies all six sea turtle species in the Pacific as endangered. The leatherback and hawksbill species are considered critical.

SPREP and WWF predict that increased air and water temperatures would be the main climate related reason sea turtles become extinct.

SPREP’s marine species officer Lui Bell says warmer air temperatures increase the heat of sand. This can impact on the species as the temperature of the nests determines the sex of a turtle.

WWF South Pacific’s regional marine officer Penina Solomona says: “Research has indicated that climate change can influence the sex ratio of hatchlings.

"This means a hotter beach can result in the inundation of nests, further decreasing the number of hatchlings recruited into the population.”

Bell says the ideal temperature for incubation is 30 deg C. This means that if the eggs are buried in sand less than 30 deg C it will produce a male – higher will create a female.

Kelly Tarlton’s fish department team leader and turtle expert Nik Hannam says that as temperature rises more female turtles will be born.

“This is making them becoming the predominant gender.”

Bell says: “As more females will be born they will not be able to maintain their population for long.”

Sexual maturity
Research has shown that currently only one in 1000 turtle eggs will stay alive until sexual maturity at the age of 25 to 35. Bell says this will also play a major role in the declining population.

“Female turtles usually lay between two to five different clutches of eggs per nesting season, each having been fertilised by a different male,” adds Bell. This means that the amount of clutches a female turtle can lay will decrease.

Sea turtle conservation groups have discussed a strategy for when populations start to become predominantly female. In these situations, eggs would be incubated below 30 deg C to produce more males.

The warming of the sea has also had major implications for the turtles. Warming sea levels have caused extreme coral bleaching in South Pacific nations.

WWF says this will negatively impact on the sea turtle populations as many rely on coral as their main food source. Hatchlings will be most severely impacted, as coral is their main food source until they are old enough to migrate to bigger feeding areas.

The death of many young turtles has also been attributed to the warming sea. This means turtles venture further out of their normal migratory zones.

Hannam says New Zealand tends to end up with turtles from Australia and the Pacific.

The turtles that usually come to New Zealand are sexually immature (under 10 years old) and get caught in the trans-tasman current.

“The turtles get too cold, so end up with hypothermia and are too sick to return to their nesting and feeding areas,” adds Hannam.

He says this is where his team at Kelly Tarlton’s steps in. They care for the turtles and get them back to full health. They then release them when the waters are warmer and they are strong enough to swim back.

Nesting times
Sea warming also alters nesting times. The usual nesting times are from October to February.

Bell says turtles “sense when to nest by the temperature. When the seas become warmer the nesting season will be delayed, it will give them less time to lay their eggs.”

Rising sea levels and extreme weather events also play a major role in the future of the species.

During the 20th century, sea levels rose 15cm. The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change indicates that this is expected to increase, with the Pacific islands being most severely effected.

Countries such as Tuvalu and Tokelau are among the worst affected – and both are common nesting areas for many sea turtle species.

Solomona says the rise in sea level can result in the overcrowding of nests which further decreases the number of hatchlings in the population.

She says that cyclones and king tides are among the most destructive extreme weather events that affect the turtle populations.

“Storm surges and strong tidal action only make the problem of habitat loss worse,” she adds.

Floods and tsunamis that hit the islands wash up turtle eggs buried in the sand and wash them to sea, potentially killing thousands of turtles.

Picture: Dizzy, a rescued green turtle found on a Northland beach and being cared for by Kelly Tarlton's marine centre. Photo: Olivia Wix.

Olivia Wix is a student journalist on the Asia-Pacific Journalism course at AUT University.

Underwater volcano erupts off Tonga - video
South Pacific spared quake damage
Undersea volcano erupts off the coast of Tonga - video

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Publisher’s book 'speaks directly' to global Tongans

By Steve Chae: Pacific Media Centre

An outspoken Tongan journalist and publisher has released a new book that speaks directly to Tongan communities in New Zealand about the dilemmas of culture and the global diaspora.

Kalafi Moala’s book, In Search of the Friendly Islands, deals with core issues of violence and a vision towards peaceful change in the Tongan communities both inside and outside of Tonga.

“The title of the book is appropriate because the Tongan communities in New Zealand are still in search of peace and there are no answers yet,” said Rev Epeli Taungapeau, of Manurewa Methodist Church, who was at the book launch at the Onehunga Community Centre last weekend.

He cited the roadside shooting of 17-year-old Halatau Naitoko by police in Auckland earlier this year as an example of violence impacting on the community.

He was concerned about the violence people see in mainstream media, saying: “Tongan communities here have to search for ways to make New Zealand a peaceful island.”

In Tonga, violence has increased related to the struggle for democracy in the only kingdom among Pacific Island countries.

Since 1989, Moala has published a bi-weekly newspaper, Taimi ‘o Tonga (Times of Tonga), criticising the monarchy and advocating democracy.

Banned paper
This was banned for a period in Tonga but Moala continued to publish the paper in Auckland since 1995. It is now based again in the Tonga capital of Nuku’alofa.

Moala has lived abroad extensively in US and New Zealand, but now lives in Tonga. He has observed the diaspora of Tongan communities and the issues they are facing, including violence.

Moala said it was important to ask why this was happening and to think about the alternatives.
He believed it came down to the “character of the man”.

He said that Tongan people’s faith in religion in the time of a “culture of transition” will see Tongan communities move towards peace.

Tongan Advisory Council chair Melino Maka said the people wanted their community media to discuss more proactively all of the issues happening inside and outside of Tonga.

He believed expanding Tongan talkback radio was important as it was the most effective way to channel people’s voices on these issues.

Moala’s book will be launched in Tonga this weekend.

Picture: Tongan broadcaster and community advocate Will 'Ilolahia (right) shares a joke at the book launch. Photo: Del Abcede.

Steve Chae is a student journalist on the Asia-Pacific Journalism course at AUT University.

New website tackles high cost of Pacific money transfers

By Sylvia Giles: Pacific Media Centre

High fees for wiring money to the Pacific through banks or agencies such as Western Union erode the earnings of Pacific migrant workers.

A new website, has been launched this week as a New Zealand aid project in a bid to make savings for Pacific families and economies.

The new English-language website - a joint venture between AusAID and NZAid with the slogan “all the information you need to send money to the Pacific” - compares costs as well as time delays, exchange rates and transfer methods.

It shows, for example, that NZ$200, sent from New Zealand to Samoa with TSB Bank, incurs a fee of $65.37, while taking two to three days to be transferred.

Westpac, using the same search criteria, carries a fee of $5.98 and takes less than an hour with the use of a pre-pay card.

The website also allows users to sign up for updates for specific countries.

There is also a plan to move into print, across different languages, in order to target workers who don’t speak English. was launched at the Otara Markets by Pacific Island Affairs Minister Georgina te Heuheu on Saturday.

‘Safety net’
In a media statement, the minister described remittance payments as an important “safety net” for some families.

World Bank senior economist Dr Manjula Luthria says money-transfer companies took $190 million from the remittances flow to the Pacific in the past financial year.

The World Bank website cites international best practice as having remittance fees between one and five percent. Money roaming the Pacific, from New Zealand and Australia, incur fees on average between 15 and 25 percent.

The former Labour-led government announced last August at the Pacific Islands Forum (PIF) in Nuie that its aim was to bring fees to between 5 and 7 percent by 2009 through increased regulation.

However, the new policy under the present government leaves the fate of these fees to the market.

According to, figures reveal the remittances income as a staple, rather than disposable income as it may be perceived to be.

Remittance payments make up 24 percent of Samoa’s national gross domestic product, bringing the country $128.2 million a year. It is their single biggest source of income.

In Tonga, remittances are equally crucial. In Fiji, since the collapse of both the tourism and sugar industry, remittances bring in more income than the two industries combined.

In-kind transfers
Remittances are defined by the World Bank as “transfers of cash formal and informal, households’ bills paid by the migrant to a third party, and in-kind transfers”.

In a report released in 2006, research carried out in Tonga and Fiji showed that 79 percent of remittances were cash transfers.
In Tonga, 75 percent all remittances were made through fee-based bank or “other” money transfer agencies (such as Western Union).

In Fiji, 69 percent of remittance payments were made using these channels.

In the past, there has been little alternative for the speedy transferring of money.

Remaining forms of transfers were listed as money being physically transferred by the migrant or a friend or a visit to migrant, through a shop, through the mail or “other”.

However the use of these methods was high enough for the World Bank to note that any “official” figures, compiled by banking networks, were unlikely to be truly reflective of actual figures of remittances reaching the Pacific.

Sylvia Giles is a student journalist on the Asia-Pacific Journalism course at AUT University.

Send Money Pacific

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Review: Master storyteller's challenging vision

In Search of the Friendly Islands, by Kalafi Moala. Hawai'i: Pasifika Foundation Press, and Auckland, NZ: Pacific Media Centre (AUT University).
ISBN 978-1-877314-75-9. 148 pp.

Reviewed by Josephine Latu: Pacific Media Watch

Kalafi Moala is no stranger to confrontation. He spent 26 days in prison for contempt of Parliament in 1996, along with MP ‘Akilisi Pohiva and fellow journalist Filo ‘Akau’ola. The ruling was later overturned as “unconstitutional”, but this didn’t stop the government from systematically banning his newspaper, Taimi ‘o Tonga, from the kingdom - twice.

Before that, the Taimi team had suffered numerous raids, arrests and threats at the hands of the authorities.

Things have changed since these landmark crackdowns on media freedom - Moala has now taken over the government-owned Chronicle as one of his projects – but as his new book proves, the man still has an uncompromising propensity to "tell it like it is".

In Search of the Friendly Islands, his sophomore publication, is sure to make waves - and not only with the governing authorities. It is a jolting dose of realism for any Tongan.

The title addresses Moala's scepticism with the myth of a perpetually serene and culturally idolised “Friendly Islands”. Instead, the Tonga he portrays is a problematic site of contested power, tangled by the influences of modernisation and globalisation.

In less than 150 pages, the book probes the gross contradictions found in Tongan culture - chronic violence, elitism, and religious hypocrisy, among others, interweaving historical accounts, philosophical reflections, and political analysis with lucid real-life stories. It’s what Moala calls the “Pacific mode of story-telling”.

He argues that the traditional Tongan culture is rooted deep in a system of domination and oppression. But importantly, more than just politics, it involves the power of “men over women, parents over children, aristocrats over peasants, nobles over commoners, teachers over students, priests and ministers over laity, and rulers over people” (p. 31). It’s how Tongans relate to the world.

Cultural brutality
This ideology of domination-oppression has inspired the violence common in both Tongan history (the "Dark Ages" of bloody civil war) and today’s communities. The very first pages vividly recount actual stories of such cultural brutality.

“Social conditioning” drives it home, and from a very young age, a Tongan child will learn that there is a pecking order, and everyone knows their place.

Yet, in a grim twist, Moala spends a chapter discussing how the “oppressed became the oppressor” during the notorious 16/11 riot of 2006 that destroyed 80 percent of the capital’s business district and left eight people dead. A long-time champion of reform, he explicitly denounces members of the current democratic party, as well as the foreign press who persist in portraying them as “the” voice of the people.

"Parachute journalists" ignore all the knotty facets in Tonga’s political movements - break-away parties, factions and turncoats – let alone understand the role of culture.

However, any Tongan is vulnerable to moral corruption and self-interest, and Moala follows with many an amusing anecdote that show the ambiguity of Tongans towards certain "Christian" or "traditional" fundamentals. For instance, forms of “trickery” or deceit are often condoned – if you can get away with it.

Meanwhile, Chinese immigrants are heavily discriminated against precisely because they are stereotyped as “cunning”. Ironically still, at the macro-level, Tongans rely on huge injections of aid from the Chinese government, in a relationship that will likely be permanent.

Moala continues to probe Tongan politics and society and the last three chapters of the book deal with the hefty issues of culture, social structure and spirituality. His challenge is to approach reform at a deeper level of ideology and psyche.

The key problem is not the lack of seats for People’s Representatives in Parliament, but the mentality that had normalised this system for years - one steeped in a culture of domination and oppression, and still very much around.

For Kalafi, political reform can only fully come about with cultural reform, and it can only be successful through soul-searching at a spiritual level.

In Search of the Friendly Islands is a courageous book with an essentially positive message – one that heralds change. It will likely garner some disapproval because it is so candid (as professor Ian Campbell speculates in his foreword – “many Tongans will be embarrassed by what Kalafi has to tell them”).

Who would be proud of “the incompetence of Tongan clergy and community leaders” to deal with domestic violence (p. 25), or child-rearing habits that yield “Tongan kids [who] do not argue; they just attack each other” (p. 28)?

However, Moala’s clever style is not to simply state his opinions as truth. A master storyteller, he provides personal stories and incidents well-known in the community, and asks, "well don’t you see it too?"

It takes a degree of guts to bring one’s own views to the public forum, and invite debate and much-needed dialogue.

After all, what Moala sees as “deceit” among Tongans, others may see as resourcefulness - a resistance to the moral regime; what he sees as political self-ambition, others may see as vital radicalism; and while much of his descriptions appear to be about Tongans "in general", others may wish to avoid generalisations about any culture. There are always pockets of resistance to any status quo – Moala himself represents one of them.

He rightly points out that “culture is not God Almighty” (p. 111). One will always find contradictions as old becomes new, young becomes old, ideas are borrowed while others are lost.

The challenge for modern Tongan culture is how our people can adapt to these changes in a way that is safe, productive and constructive for everyone. There are questions to ponder together - what traditions should be kept and what can be done away with? Should Tonga immediately "cut and paste" a foreign model of democracy? How can leaders effectively convey changes to the masses?

As a Tongan, reading this book was wholly engrossing - but not because I agree with everything Moala writes. The most important contribution of this book is that it encourages the reader to look beneath the surface, inviting different interpretations and reactions that will hopefully result in dialogue.

The issues - moral, cultural, political - are apparent in any society faced with globalisation and development. However, people need to be encouraged to question why things are the way they are and whether there are different solutions.

Josephine Latu is contributing editor of Pacific Media Watch at AUT University.

In Search of the Friendly Islands is available from:
Pasifika Foundation Press, Hawai'i, or
Pacific Media Centre, RRP NZ$34.95

New book by former Tongan dissident
Media crusader's blighted dream

Bennett gives new Indian paper full marks

By Kara Segedin: Pacific Media Centre

New Zealand’s newest ethnic newspaper was launched to a rave notice from Social Development Minister Paula Bennett at the weekend in Waitakere City.

“It’s very informative and has the sort of light-hearted information we want,” she said after being presented with the first edition of the Indian Weekender.

The launch was part of Race Relations Day celebrations to mark the Holi Mela festival at the Trusts Stadium. Bennett is also MP for Waitakere.

The Indian Weekender is a free, English language newspaper covering stories of interest to New Zealand’s Indian community and the general public.

Editor Dev Nadkarni said organisers have been busy planning the paper for six months.

He said the paper would cover India and many other countries where there is an Indian diaspora.

Along with several Auckland-based reporters, the paper has put together a group of experienced foreign correspondents who will write exclusively for the Weekender.

Currently printed fortnightly, the paper will eventually become a weekly publication.

Shared culture
Nadkarni, who has lived in Fiji, said the Weekender’s main audience would be people of Indian extraction who shared Indian culture and values, but not necessarily from India.

“People have been living out of India for as many as four or five generations,” he said

There is a substantial market within the Indian community.

In the 2006 Census, 104,583 people identified their ethnicity as Indian, with 71 percent of the population living in the Auckland region.

“While there have been media outlets catering to Indians we thought that there was a gap in the market - both in content and the way that news and information is presented,” Nadkarni said.

The Indian publishing industry is highly advanced, with many publications tied to international brands such as the Washington Post, Financial Times and the Daily Mail.

“They have a very high standard of both journalism and layout, which has been sadly lacking in publications directed at Indians in New Zealand,” he said

Nadkarni said New Zealand’s existing Indian publications look dated and seem to be “stuck in the 1970s”. The team wants to bring New Zealand-based publishing on a par with Indian standards.

Nadkarni wanted to make the content accessible and user friendly.

“People don’t have time to read 2000 word articles,” he said. “In this day of txt and the internet, we are really looking at shorter stories, pieces that drive home the point and add value to a typical migrants’experience here in New Zealand.”

More colour
With an emphasis on original stories, pictures and colour, the paper will give readers information from New Zealand and their countries of origin.

“Our stories are going to be more focused. It’s going to be variety family reading for the weekend.”

So far the response from the community has been positive. “It’s been in the market only three days, but we’ve already run out of copies,” said Nadkarni.

Bhav Dhillon, a director of the publishing Kiwi Media Group, said the positive feedback was “a lot more than what was expected - people are impressed by the look and feel of the paper”.

His first time in the publishing industry, Dhillon’s responsibilities include finances, organisational management and distribution.

Dhillon said the paper would be stocked at 85 locations around the Auckland region, with plans for up to 1000 door-to-door deliveries

It is expected the paper will also be available in Hamilton, Tauranga, Napier, Hastings, Wellington and Christchurch.

Dhillon said plans for a website were underway and this was expected to be running in several weeks.

Publisher and director Giri Gupta said that while most community papers were run by a couple of people adopting a “cut-and-paste” process to creation, the Indian Weekender was a team effort.

The paper’s goals were to “increase frequency, circulation, and pages numbers,” he said.

Two purposes
Melissa Lee, National MP and former television broadcaster, said cultural newspapers like the Indian Weekender are important.

“They reflect the views and opinions of the community,” she said.

In the case of the Indian Weekender, Lee said it served two purposes. Not only did the paper reflect the Indian community’s needs, but as it was published in English it gave other New Zealanders a better understanding of the Indian community.

Lee would like to see increased interaction between the ethnic and mainstream media.

Associate professor David Robie, director of AUT University’s Pacific Media Centre, said the challenge for new community papers was identifying what the community wanted.

“There seems to be a mood that a more positive paper is needed than they’ve had in the past,” said Dr Robie.

“I think the first edition looks fairly promising. It’s bright and it’s got a range of different topics.”

As with new publications the stories were light - “it takes a while to bed down to getting some of the hard stories. But I think that will come,” he said.

One of the strongest factors in the paper’s potential success was the talented and experienced individuals in charge.

Nadkarni was head of journalism at the University of the South Pacific, is a respected business journalist and is involved with the Islands Business magazine in Suva, Fiji. Chief reporter Ranjit Singh was a former publisher of the Fiji Daily Post and currently contributes to a number of publications.

As with any publication, the future of the Indian Weekender is tied to its economic success.

“Community papers seem to be the most successful in NZ at the moment,” he said.

Dr Robie said most ethnic communities were marginalised by the mainstream media.

“The mainstream media doesn’t do a good job reporting important issues for the communities,” he said.

This means Auckland’s 75,000 strong Indian community is not given enough voice.

“The best thing that mainstream media can do is actually have newsrooms that reflect the communities around us,” said Dr Robie.

He said the challenge for mainstream media organisations was to go out and get more ethnic journalists.

He said journalism schools also had an important part to play - “they’ve actually got to put a lot more effort into attracting an ethnically diverse range of students.”

Picture: Social Development Minister Paula Bennett with editor Dev Nadkarni (centre) and publisher Giri Gupta. Photo: Kara Segedin.

Kara Segedin is a student journalist on the Asia-Pacific Journalism course at AUT University.

Money transfer website seeks savings for Pacific families

By Krista Ferguson: Pacific Media Centre

Pacific peoples will get a boost in financial literacy and save some money thanks to a new website-based programme with handy remittances advice.

Pacific Island Affairs Minister Georgina te Heuheu launched at the Otara Markets at the weekend.

“Pacific families in New Zealand are entitled to a fair go,” says Te Heuheu.

Transparency, fairness and speed of remittances are important – the cost is a burden on low income families.

“If $25 is lost for every $100, this is a loss to both the family in New Zealand and the family in the Pacific,” she says.

A joint NZAid and AusAID-funded project, the website provides a comparison of the fees charged by money transfer operators to send money from New Zealand to other Pacific countries.

It also compares the time it takes for the money to arrive.

Client manager for the website developer, Developing Markets Associates (DMA) Ltd, Jonathan Capal says it is a joint initiative that followed on from World Bank studies that looked at remittance costs for transferring money from one country to another.

“This region has the highest remittance costs in the world,” he says.

“In the UK it costs less than 5 percent to transfer money to India. In New Zealand there is a cost of up to 30 percent, including fees and foreign exchange, to send money to the Pacific.”

Heavy loss
Remittances to the Pacific region amount to more than USD$425 million a year, according to a media release by the minister.

Ministry project manager for the Pacific Remittance Project, Kim Hailwood, says it is estimated that NZ$80 million is lost a year on remittance fees to the Pacific Region.

Three-quarters of Pacific Islanders living in New Zealand send money to family in the Pacific Islands, says Hailwood.

“Money sent to the Pacific outstrips aid.”

The minister says remittances are a critical flow of money into the Pacific and provide an important safety net for some families.

“The money sent helps Pacific communities to be strong and sustainable,” says Te Heuheu.

The website shows that sending $200 from New Zealand to Fiji would cost $5.98 using a Westpac pre-paid card and $34.13 through Western Union.

The calculation was based on figures updated on March 20.

Taking note
Both Westpac and the Western Union deliver the money in less than one hour. Other money transfer operators can take up to three days, according to the website.

Money transfer operators have taken note since the website went live, says Capal.

“No-one likes to be seen as the most expensive,” he says.

“Some banks are starting to update us with offers that are relevant to remittance costs.”

Te Heuheu says: “In the end it’s a benefit to the banks as well. If they provide a good service, they will get good business.”

Westpac spokesperson Craig Dowling says it took the World Bank to dig out the scale of the issue. Banks attended forums coordinated by the World Bank and the Ministry of Pacific Island Affairs, he says.

The World Bank demonstrated how exposed Pacific communities are to these fees. A considerable amount of pressure was put on banks by the World Bank around this issue, he says.

The fees were contributing to a massive burden that could be alleviated, he says.

“A 25 percent fee is definitely too much,” he says. “It’s now up to banks to decide where this lies in their priorities.

“Our parent company, Westpac Banking Corporation, has a large footprint in the Pacific so we wanted to demonstrate our commitment to those communities.

Competitive advantage
It becomes a competitive advantage having the lower cost remittance product, he says.

“We decided we could move more quickly than our competitors. Westpac introduced a new card for remittances to the Pacific last year.

“We think there will be a competitive response. Western Union changed some of their rates when Westpac announced their new remittance product,” says Dowling.

He says a broader response by banks is needed to have a full effect.

“Why hamstring the whole Pacific community,” he says.

Westpac has also used the Otara Markets to promote its remittance product.

“Uptake has been okay, but there is a long way to go,” he says.

Capal says that internet use by different Pacific peoples varies. Samoans have a higher internet uptake compared with Tongan and Solomon Islands communities.

Because of the lower internet access, DMA will be regularly updating printed material to be handed out at churches and community groups, he says.

The website generated interest before the launch.

“It’s been notably picked up by bloggers in Papua New Guinea,” he says.

DMA expect the number of hits, currently several hundred a day, to at least triple following the launches in New Zealand in the weekend and Australia next Friday.

The website is part of a wider Pacific remittances project involving a partnership between the World Bank, Reserve Bank, Ministry of Pacific Island Affairs and the Pacific Cooperation Foundation (PCF).

PCF programme manager Tina McNicholas says the foundation is co-funding the education phase of the project.

“Phase two is much wider than the website. The focus will be on financial capability and a community education campaign,” she says.

McNicholas says she hopes that the website will also have an impact on the high level of fees “we’ll be able to pass on savings to families in the Pacific.

Picture: Pacific Island Affairs Minister Georgina te Heuheu (left) and project manager Kim Hailwood. Photo: Krista Ferguson.

Krista Ferguson is a student journalist on the Asia-Pacific Journalism course at AUT University.

Send Money Pacific

New ethnic paper targets Indian community

By Violet Cho: Pacific Media Centre

A new ethnic newspaper, the Indian Weekender, has been launched in Auckland – and Social Development Minister Paula Bennett was handed the first copy at the Holi Mela festival last weekend.

Chief reporter Thakur Ranjit Singh says the mainstream New Zealand media tend to cover the negative side of the Indian and other migrant communities and there is a need for something new.

“Indian people have needed their own new newspaper to help fill the gap,” Singh says.

“NZ has become cosmopolitan. A lot of migrants are coming here but you can hardly find them in the media.

“You can look at the New Zealand Herald, TV1, TV3, the Dominion Post and they hardly have any people from migrant communities to reflect the cultures, traditions and sensitivities of this country”.

Starting at 32 pages, the Indian Weekender will be published with at least 6000 copies every fortnight from now on.

But the paper plans to go weekly with 10,000 copies in the future.

The target market is predominantly at least 120,000 Indian people from the sub-continent and also diasporic communities from Fiji, Malaysia, Singapore and South Africa.

Binding people
“We felt that there was a vacuum and there was a need for a paper like this. It’s important to have a community-based newspaper,” says Singh.

“Something that binds people together to give the information that's relevant to them.”
The paper was welcomed with enthusiasm by media academics, media personnel and politicians in New Zealand.

Associate professor David Robie, director of Pacific Media Centre, says a paper like the Indian Weekender can focus on issues important to the ethnic Indian community.

“Mainstream media in New Zealand fails in reporting for ethnic minority communities in the country. There are so many tremendous positive things that have been done by a whole range of communities.

“It is really important for the community to have its own media, not just relying on the mainstream.”

Parliament’s first Korean MP, Melissa Lee, former executive producer of Asia Down Under, says ethnic media is important in reflecting minority views.

But she warned that the editorial team should make sure that the standard of journalism is upheld and not to rely on publishing “advertorials”.

“The Indian community has a variety of newspapers, which I think is very important. Competition is always a good thing.”

The first edition of this paper features national and local news in New Zealand, India and Fiji, as well as business, education and entertainment.

Editor Dev Nadkarni says the paper is trying to give well-rounded content produced for the people who live away from their original home.

“There are columns written by experts on IT needs for businesses, taxation, mortgages and all the valuable information that Indian experts living in NZ need.

“For women, children and young people, we have separate sections. For the first time in the newspaper here, we have two pages dedicated to children only. These talk about Indian values.
“There are also comics and illustrations for children,” he says.

Starting the newspaper during the global economic downturn is a challenge for the group, says Nadkarni.

“A lot of people say it’s probably the worst time to launch the newspaper. Everybody talks about the economic downturn which makes advertising hard to come by.

“But our management saw that it is probably the best time - we are at the bottom and we can only go up.”

Another challenge to compete with is another long–established newspaper, Indian Newslink, which is distributed fortnightly around New Zealand and has a circulation of 65,000, according to its website.

It also has similar objectives, aiming to be a platform for Indian community issues and to raise the profile of the community.

Picture: Director Bhav Dillon and Social Development Minister Paula Bennett launch the Indian Weekender at the Holi Mela festival. Photo: Violet Cho.

Violet Cho, from Burma, is the 2009 Asian Journalism Fellow and on the Asia-Pacific Journalism course at AUT University.

Violet Cho on the Karen website

Hard-hitting publisher optimistic for Tonga's future

By Kacey Maher: Pacific Media Centre

Journalist and publisher Kalafi Moala has declared an optimistic vision for Tonga, saying: “My dream is that we will have a nation with freedom without domination, order without tyranny.”

“We're searching, we are seeking together as a people, for those solutions.”

It was a startling message contrasting sharply with a widespread image of white beaches, delicious food, and melodic singing that many people hold of the “friendly islands”.

Moala himself is softly-spoken, jovial and perpetually smiling.

Yet Moala is a hard-hitting journalist who has spent more than his fair share of time imprisoned or banned from his home country due to his paper Taimi ‘o Tonga’s past efforts to promote democratic reform.

Kalafi Moala was launching his new book, In Search of the Friendly Islands, at the Onehunga Community Centre and Library at the weekend.

His book is an attempt to educate both Tongans and non-Tongans about hidden truths behind the country’s peaceful demeanor - truths that, according to many who attended the launching, are mostly forgotten.

“There's a certain denial in Tonga that anything bad ever happens,” said American Hilary Scothorn, who, as an art historian has visited the country with her Tongan husband, artist Philip Tohi, on many occasions.

The book is “re-reporting” incidents that Tongans may have felt more comfortable forgetting, she said.

'Courageous book'
“I think it’s a very courageous book,” said New Zealand journalist Dr David Robie, who is director of AUT University’s Pacific Media Centre, in his speech at the book release.

“It is something of a reality check.”

Moala wastes no time getting to the point in his book.

“For me, the innocence for which my country of birth has been known was truly broken with the killing of ‘Ova and Ngauamo’s suicide,” writes Moala.

The first chapter, entitled “This is not the friendly way,” describes this and other brutal murders committed by Tongans, both on the islands and abroad in an attempt to highlight the growing trend of violence within Tongan communities.

The next chapter is no more forgiving, explaining how even the term “Friendly Islands”, given to Tonga by Captain James Cook, was an ironic misnomer.

Cook came up with the nickname after being welcomed and feasted by the chiefs of the island but, Moala corrects, the feast was organised in order to murder Cook and steal his ships.

Cook was saved only by the disorganisation of the chiefs and the subsequent failure of the plan, Moala writes.

Eye for the truth
And it is this unapologetic eye for the truth that has landed Moala in conflict with the Tongan authorities at times.

In 2004, his then Auckland-based Taimi was denied a licence by the Tongan government because of its criticism and “outsider’s” view.

Moala’s first book, Island Kingdom Strikes Back (2002), gives an account of both the newspaper’s struggle and that of his family for an open forum of information.

Broadcaster Sefita Hao’uli, and longtime friend of Moala, said: “I have never seen the floor of Tonga’s prison and I never would want to - even if you paid me.”

He praised Moala’s courageous attempts to tell the truth in the face of government censorship—attempts that saw him both imprisoned and banned from Tonga.

“But for someone to stick to a principle…that takes some courage.”

Moala’s paper suffered most during the constitutional monarchy of King Taufa’ahau Tupou IV. For nearly 40 years until he died, the king ruled with near absolute power.

However, King George Tupou V has brushed aside the authoritarian-type rule of his father and has begun to introduce a dialogue of democratic reform for the island nation that has been a constitutional monarchy for 160 years.

Mood for change
Now, in 2009, with a more relaxed government under King Tupou V and a growing feeling among Tongans that they want things to change, Moala is back living in Tonga and has absorbed the government-run paper the Chronicle into his publishing business.

“Twenty years ago we were told by the Chronicle that we wouldn’t last two months,” said Moala in his speech. Now, 20 years later Taimi ‘o Tonga owns the Chronicle.

However, despite the changes and the pathways towards reform, Moala’s optimism is cautious.

“No one has come up with any reliable assurances either of whether the system we are changing into is going to be better than what we now have,” Moala writes in his book.

The real change of reform, he says, is coming from the Tongans living abroad - those who, with a greater world view, can see Tonga’s place in the global society.

Once solutions are found, they will help not just Tonga but the entire Pacific region, according to Ana Currie, who heads the Pasifika Foundation Press.

“The whole region right now is in a fight for self-determination,” said Currie, “Tonga has the potential to be a shining beacon for all of the Pacific Islands.”

Photo of Kalafi Moala at the book launch by Alan Koon.

Katherine Maher is an American student journalist on the Asia-Pacific Journalism course as part of her Study Abroad programme at AUT University.

Falun Gong disciples tell of harassment

By Christopher Adams: Pacific Media Centre

The persecution of Falun Gong practitioners in China is well documented. But less well known is how followers of the spiritual discipline face harassment in many Western democracies from the Chinese Communist Party through consulates and embassies.

Auckland practitioners of Falun Gong, a spiritual movement founded by Li Hongzi in China in 1992, claim they still face many pressures from the Chinese government in New Zealand.

Practitioners say the CCP’s atheist ideologies leave no room for spirituality, which is why the government fears the Falun Gong movement. It has been outlawed in China since 1999.

Charmaine Deng, a practitioner who came to New Zealand 15 years ago from China, says Chinese Falun Gong adherents in Auckland find themselves isolated from the Chinese community.

“We try to talk to them but they close their doors,” she says.

Deng believes the CCP has caused much of the community to become anti-Falun Gong, claiming the Chinese Consulate-General in Auckland feeds misinformation to people in order to turn them against the movement.

The consulate’s website contains a large amount of anti-Falun Gong propaganda, describing the movement as a “cult” that is “anti-mankind, anti-anti-science and anti-society”.

“The CCP has extended the persecution of Falun Gong from China to New Zealand,” says Deng.
She says the consulate is not sticking to “New Zealand rules”.

“In New Zealand everything is supposed to be free.”

Daisy Lee began practising Falun Gong in China before moving to New Zealand several years ago. She says the Chinese state media, with its anti-Falun Gong rhetoric, has a big impact on how Chinese people view the movement - especially international students studying in Auckland.

“Chinese international students are the biggest problem for Falun Gong in Auckland,” she says. “They don’t read the Herald or watch New Zealand news, only Chinese media.”

Lee also says a website for Chinese students in New Zealand,, is a problem for the movement in Auckland because of the many anti-Falun Gong messages posted on the site, often inciting hatred against the movement.

Exposure to Chinese media has turned many international students against the movement, sometimes leading them to turn up at Falun Gong events.

‘Disrupting’ events
The Chinese consulate is organising students to disrupt events and protests held by both the Falun Gong and Free Tibet movements in Auckland, claims Lee.

Lee tells of meeting a Chinese student recently at the University of Auckland, who was putting up posters around the campus for a Chinese Students Association event.

Unaware of Lee being a Falun Gong practitioner, the student boasted he had been “organised” by the Chinese consulate to counter-protest against Free Tibet activists last year.

“Chinese mix up country, nation and government,” she says. “In China, the government is your mother, so some Chinese students believe the Falun Gong and Free Tibet movements are against their motherland.

“When I was a child in China we were told that communism would liberate the world, but after I came to New Zealand I realised communism was there to control us, not to liberate us.”

Another practitioner, Margo Macvicar, came to New Zealand from Scotland 26 years ago.

Macvicar got involved in Falun Gong in Motueka before moving to Auckland recently.

She finds the meditation routines of Falun Gong have given her a “quietness inside”, and changed her life.

Macvicar says Chinese students are one of the main problems the movement faces in Auckland, and also suspects the Chinese consulate of feeding them misinformation about Falun Gong.

“A lot of Chinese have been swayed by the consulate,” she says.

During a protest rally outside the Chinese Consulate in Penrose last year, an unknown vandal smashed Macvicar’s car window. She believes “there is a link” between the protest and the damage done to her car.

She was also spat at once when handing out Falun Gong flyers in Queen St.

Despite being isolated from the Chinese community, Falun Gong practitioners say it is not a lonely existence being part of the movement.

“We don’t feel lonely,” says Macvicar. “It’s not only through our belief; through our practice we learn to be tolerant and compassionate.”

Amos Chen, a practitioner originally from Shanghai, left China on the same day the CCP began cracking down on the movement in 1999.

Chen takes part in the silent protests the Falun Gong regularly hold outside the Chinese Consulate in Penrose.

Passport block
He says the consulate makes life difficult for Falun Gong adherents living in Auckland in many different ways, such as not renewing Chinese passports when practitioners want to go to China to visit sick or dying relatives.

Chen recalls running a Falun Gong stall at an Auckland Chinese festival a few years ago, when a member of the Chinese community in charge of the event asked him if the stall was linked to the Falun Gong.

When he replied yes, the man said: “I want to close your stall because the consulate doesn’t like you.”

David Jiang, president of the Chinese Students Association based at the University of Auckland, denies any link between the Chinese consulate and the association.

A second year engineering student, Jiang says the association with more than 3000 members never acts as an information channel for the consulate.

“We support the Chinese government, but we are not a political group.”

The association’s main focus is on organising entertainment for Chinese students, and services such as free tutorials, he says.

A spokesperson for the Chinese Consulate-General in Auckland said there was no knowledge of claimed incidents such as Falun Gong practitioners’ cars being damaged near the consulate.

Picture: Falun Gong practitioner Amos Chen outside the Chinese consulate in Penrose. Photo: Christopher Adams.

Christopher Adams is a student journalist on the Asia-Pacific Journalism course, AUT University.

Healthy eating message in for next Polyfest

By Pippa Brown: Pacific Media Centre

Health messages are in for next year’s Polyfest after more than 90,000 people enjoyed the latest event here over the weekend at the Manukau Sportsbowl. School teams from more than 15 Asia-Pacific cultures contested the annual event - the world's largest Maori and Pasifika cultural event.

Event manager Tania Karauria says subtle changes are made to the successful formula each year – “another reason for the calm mood”.

The festival, now far too big for the host schools to handle as a venue, is a smoke free event - and a real effort is put into stamping out smoking.

This year free water was on offer with no fizzy drinks.

The aim for 2010 is to further encourage a healthy eating message around festival type foods and the different cultural stages, says Karauria.

The festival evolved from humble beginnings in 1976 when it was first hosted by Otara’s Hillary College.

Dean Wilson, media manager, has been with the Polyfest for three years. He describes this year as “brilliant”.

“It’s a bit of a slice of the islands – every stage has a bit of a presence.”

Wesley College hosted this year’s four-day event. More than 9000 students from 60 schools performed under the slogan of “Many cultures, one world”

Five stages included Maori, Cook Island, Niue, Samoan, Tongan performers along with a diversity stage.

More relaxed
“The presentation of the festival has got better. Using professionals makes it more relaxed and the quality of the performance is bigger. The students go out and work really hard to be competitive,” says Wilson.

Manukau City had assisted the 34-year-old festival with the infrastructure at the Sports Bowl.

“Sponsorship is a big part of the support. The downturn has brought a tougher sponsorship market but many of our sponsors have signed up for three years so will come back,” says Wilson.

“ASB has been a loyal supporter for 24 years and every year continues to add to the event. It’s a good positive youth celebration and a good synergy to be involved with,” he says.

Wilson has not seen violence at the event for some time. Counties Manukau police have a strong presence and there is security on site.

Tania Karauria, ASB Polyfest event manager, says organisers want to see it stay safe and exciting.

“There is a total concerted effort to make the festival what it is today,” she says.

Karauria says there is an increase in the number of large groups from schools attending.

On Friday, Te Atatu Intermediate bused in the whole school of 270 pupils and 30 staff to the event.

Multicultural goal
Inspector Dave Simpson, in charge of operations, says: “The festival started out as a really good intention for a multicultural secondary school extravaganza. Unfortunately, it also provided the opportunity for young people to act inappropriately.

“Going back about six or seven years there were some brawls, ethnic pressure and tension between schools,” he says.

John Sione, a visitor from New Lynn, is concerned about talk that the future of the festival could be at risk.

“It’s stupid. This is what our parents from the islands did,” he says.

“For some of us, learning this is our only escape from gangs. The practice in the weekends and after school keeps us occupied. It’s good the way it is.”

Inspector Simpson believes the event is good for young people committed to training and competing for a trophy with strong parent support.

He took over the policing of the event in 2003 and quickly recognised there were problems and safety issues.

Safety issues
“We started putting a lot more police staff into it, working with the organisers and a security firm and producing a more integrated response to safety issues. More effort is put into this event than other events like an international sports fixture or rock concert,” he says.

“We have a disproportionate number of lower decile schools in our district and an incredible ethnic diversity. This event celebrates that diversity.

“An organisation like ours should be very much involved rather than sitting on the periphery and doing its normal job,” says Inspector Simpson.

“The fact that this event is all about connecting with culture is not really the issue. It’s about providing the opportunity for young people to get together, to commit and train for something, to gain a sense of achievement whether they win or lose.”

“I just think that events like this do so much for our young people. We are really pleased to see the improvements that have occurred and I must stress that this is not just about the police or down to the police. By working closely with the organisers and security we have come up with a type of solution,” says Inspector Simpson.

Top: Cook Islands dancers at the Polyfest; Above: Police keep an eye out for problems. Photos: Pippa Brown.

Pippa Brown is a student journalist on the Asia-Pacific Journalism course, AUT University.

ASB Polyfest

Monday, March 23, 2009

NZ’s aid 'true agenda' faces probe

By Megan Anderson: Pacific Media Centre

As Foreign Minister Murray McCully’s controversial reviews into NZAid are completed over the next month, questions are being raised over the true agenda of New Zealand work in the Pacific.

McCully has ordered two reviews into NZAid – one by the Chief Executive of Foreign Affairs, and another by the State Services Commissioner – in response to what the minister’s spokesman, James Funnell, says was “part of National’s election policy”.

The reviews have been criticised by non-government organisations, development studies academics and political observers as too hasty, too vague, too secret, and lacking the expertise needed for the complicated issues at stake.

Professor Crosbie Walsh, former director of development studies at the University of the South Pacific, says the minister and many advisers “know next to nothing about the countries to which New Zealand gives aid”.

Oxfam executive director Barry Coates says one of the main demands of the NGO-supported “Don’t corrupt aid” campaign is to open up McCully’s decision-making process.

Don’t Corrupt Aid is launching an appeal to the public against McCully’s reviews through their website, blog and Facebook campaign.

In late February, the minister expressed his desire to see NZAid make a policy change from the “old mantra of poverty alleviation” to a “clear focus on sustainable economic development”.

He also hinted at structural changes within NZAid and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, aiming for “a much closer alignment between our aid and development activities and our overall foreign policy goals”.

Political agenda
It has been this, alongside McCully’s plans to change NZAid’s OECD-applauded focus of ‘poverty elimination’ to ‘economic development’, which is raising questions about New Zealand’s involvement in the Pacific.

At present, NZAID spends 53 percent of the overall $480 million annual budget they receive from the government in the Pacific.

Dr Roman Grynberg’s recent controversial comments on the Pacific Islands Forum (which accompanied his resignation as Director of Economic Governance at the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat) raised a number of concerns on the political agenda of Australia and New Zealand aid.

He says McCully’s proposal to align NZAid closer to MFAT would mean NZaid would increasingly become a political vehicle for government aims.

Dr Grynberg says: “In the past NZ aid policy was seen as more independent than Australia, but if this shift occurs NZ aid will become the financier of other arms of government as Australian aid has become over time.”

“The move of both Australian aid and NZ aid closer to their respective ministries of foreign affairs has meant that both have increasingly become arms of government and part of the 'whole of government approach' to the Pacific.”

Dr John McKinnon, an honorary research fellow at Victoria University (who set up development studies there several years ago) is critical of McCully’s approach to NZAid.
“McCully seems to have a need to flex his muscles but unfortunately most of his muscles are in his head,” he says.

“Why should he be allowed to arrogantly and so hurriedly demolish an agency that has taken more than a decade through careful deliberation to start up?”

Reputation at stake
Dr McKinnon says McCully’s proposed changes to NZAid would do little for New Zealand’s reputation as a leader in government aid.

“I really think NZAid has done a good job in placing itself, as much as possible, outside a political arena and setting its principal goal as poverty reduction”.

“New Zealanders can feel proud of what the agency has achieved in enhancing our national profile as a nation that cares.”

Professor Walsh is less convinced by NZAid’s efforts in the Pacific.

“Poverty is a structural issue that can only be addressed by each Pacific government,” he says.

Professor Walsh says the complicated flow of aid passing from the taxpayer to Island bureaucracies, large foreign-owned firms, NGOs, and “the backflow of aid through the purchase of NZ goods and services and repatriated salaries and profits” make any real positive impact upon the Pacific difficult to come by.

Statistics suggest New Zealanders share Professor Walsh’s scepticism. A NZAid study from July 2007 found that while 76 percent approved of New Zealand government providing overseas aid, “confidence in the effectiveness of overseas aid, whether provided through NGOs or by government, was again limited” (compared to the 2004 study).

Just 39 percent thought New Zealand’s NGOs are helping the impoverished in poorer countries, while only 29 percent were confident in the effectiveness of government aid.

Coates says the implementation of McCully’s mandates would ultimately mean “New Zealand’s reputation will suffer in the developing world”.

Human rights
While Coates says it is important for NZAid to exert some political influence over the Pacific – such as political intervention on the side of human rights, “good governance”, and “getting substantial services to people” – he questions recent government plans to use NZaid money to subsidise Air New Zealand flights between the United States, Tonga and Samoa.

The subsidies would be provided with the purpose of maintaining and strengthening the Pacific trade and tourist link to the United States.

“We think that might be a good idea, but it probably shouldn’t be done from the aid budget,” says Coates.

“It’s all very well to give that sort of support…but that’s not the kind of aid that should be targeted to the poor.”

McCully’s plans to move NZAid towards what he calls a more “hard-headed” economic focus is also calling into question the direction NZAID is heading.

Dr McKinnon says: “Talk of giving priority to economic issues is just another way of saying we should use aid solely for our political and economic advantage.”

One of the reasons McCully gave for the move is the enormous inequality in trade between New Zealand and the Pacific.

Barry Coates calls it “a travesty”.

“There’s a massive trade imbalance,” he says.

While New Zealand exported $794 million to Pacific Islands Forum (PIF) members (excluding Australia) in the year ending June 2008, imports from PIF members totalled at just $237 million, with a trade imbalance of $546 million.

New Zealand exports to Fiji were $337 million, with imports at just $69 million, 0.2 percent of our total imports.

Pacific imports
McCully said last month: “I believe that over time measurable increases in imports from the Pacific will be an important gauge of the effectiveness of New Zealand's development efforts in the region.”

Coates, however, criticises some of New Zealand’s recent moves towards freeing trade with the Pacific. In particular, he highlights the recent Pacific Agreement on Closer Economic Relations (PACER) between the Pacific and Australia and New Zealand, which aims to ultimately establish free trade between all three parties.

“There’s a hard push from New Zealand and Australia for negotiations to start before the Pacific are ready,” says Coates.

Trade Aid general manager Geoff White points to the general murkiness surrounding having economic development as a goal for NZAid.

“While economic development will always be a big part of poverty elimination, unless you have poverty elimination as the focus, economic development can mean anything.”

“We think that aid has to benefit the recipient and not the donor”.

Spokesman James Funnell says people are reading too much into the comments the minister has made concerning NZaid.

On Friday, the Labour Party is due to co-host a summit in Wellington with the Progressives, the Greens, other parties yet to be announced, and NGOs, to discuss the future of NZAid as McCully’s reviews proceed.

Picture: Oxfam's Barry Coates ... trying to open up the decision-making process.

Megan Anderson is a student journalist on the Asia-Pacific Journalism course, AUT University.

Don't Corrupt Aid
Anzac stranglehold on the 'free' Forum
Crosbie Walsh's Fiji blog