THE Legislative Assembly of Tonga today hosted a visit from Members of the New Zealand Parliament Select Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defense and Trade.
The Speaker of Parliament Lord Fakafanua warmly welcomed to Fale Alea their visiting counterparts led by a Tongan, Hon. Jenny Salesa who chairs the Select Committee, Hon. Todd Muller and Hon. Golriz Ghahraman and accompanying staff.
MPs from NZ Select Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defense and Trade. L-R: Hon. Jenny Salesa (Chair of the Select Committee, Hon. Todd Muller & Hon. Golriz Ghahraman
He also conveyed Tonga Parliament’s Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defense and Trade’s elatedness to receive them and also for the opportunity to dialogue openly on relations between New Zealand Parliament and Tonga Parliament, our two governments and the friendly relationships enjoyed between our two people.
Tongan Hon. Jenny Salesa
This is the last leg of the New Zealand delegation’s Pacific Island tour of Fiji, Solomon Islands and Tonga to conduct an inquiry on Illegal Unregulated Unreported (IUU) fishing.
Lord Speaker, Fakafanua
On IUU, the Lord Speaker told the visitors there was no illegal fishing activities caught in Tonga’s water in the last two years. The information provided by the Lord Speaker was based on a briefing session with the Ministry of Fisheries yesterday.
MPs' group photo
Lord Fakafanua says in terms of licensed fishing, there were instances of unreporting of catches. To mitigate against that, the Lord Speaker offered solutions that cameras should be installed on boats, observers need to be on the boat before leaving. He said there are some instances, the fishing vessels cannot leave ports as there are no observers. This is due to the fact that observers are going fruit picking under the Recognised Seasonal Employer (RSE) scheme.
To counter and handle the unreporting of catches in licensed fishing, Lord Fakafanua asks the New Zealand Parliament can assist Tonga with installing of cameras on fishing boats and providing drones to combat unregulated and illegal fishing. In terms of unlicensed fishing, he thinks the issue is the limitations in surveillance.
“We don’t have satellites, we don’t have planes, we don’t have any drones. We don’t have any ships because the naval boat goes out once in every six months – twice a year. Why? We have only two surveillance ships and it is too expensive for us to pay. $600,000 to fill up the boat to go a couple of times. We can put that money into better use in hospital like training of nurses,” said the Lord Speaker.
In terms of capacity and legislation, Lord Fakafanua says “Tonga do have a legal framework in place, Parliament can also pass Regulations specifically for the monitoring and the use of drones and cameras. In terms of laws coming into Parliament, Cabinet can draft a Regulations and it can be implemented immediately.”
He said the only means Tonga can monitor IUU is through the Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA).
Lord Fakafanua also mentions the challenges now for Tonga is the capacity to have drone pilots, drone operators, drone technicians, camera installation and training needed on monitoring of drones and cameras. He pointed out that New Zealand can provide assistance to Tonga with such resources and find it very helpful.
On agriculture, the Hon. Minister of Trade and Development Hon. Dr. Viliami Latu also sought help from the visitors on how New Zealand can address the high standards biosecurity and quarantine issues. This remains one of the biggest challenges for Tonga to exporting local produce to New Zealand. Dr. Viliami Latu says this is the best time to ask New Zealand for help and to take into consideration on easing up restrictions on trade with Tonga. He said counterparts in New Zealand and Tonga have been in dialogue even on the PACER+ agreement but to no avail. High and quarantine standards remain a big challenge for the local farmers’ efforts to exporting local fresh produce to Aotearoa.
In terms of labour mobility, the MOH Minister Hon. Saia Piukala also sought help from both New Zealand and Australia to train our local nurses through scholarships and training to accommodate Tonga when health workers are offered jobs overseas. He said 32 nurses resigned last year to take up age care work in Australia and New Zealand.
Hon. Piukala adds that the training of age care workers takes up to six months and Australia and New Zealand are taking the easy way out in recruiting them. He said the normal intake of nurses now has been doubled from 30-40 annually, because more health care workers are migrating overseas for better opportunities for them and their families.
Today the meeting between the New Zealand MPs and their local counterparts also discussed other issues of interest including sea boundaries, climate change and climate resilience among other issues.
Hon. Jenny Salesa is the Assistant Speaker of the New Zealand House of Representatives and Chair of the Parliamentary Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Select Committee. Born and raised in Tonga, her family moved to Aotearoa New Zealand, seeking better educational opportunities, when she was 16 and they settled in Auckland. Jenny’s commitment to social justice and ensuring equal opportunities and fairness for all led her to politics.
Hon. Muller is former Chairperson of the Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Select Committee, and as the Deputy Chairperson of the Education and Science Select Committee. Todd currently sits on the Maori Affairs Select Committee. He was born in Te Aroha in 1968 and was raised in Te Puna, north of Tauranga. Todd attended Tauranga Boys College before earning his Master’s Degree from the University of Waikato
Golriz Ghahraman is an Iranian-Kiwi refugee who made history as the first ever refugee to be sworn in as an MP, having arrived in Aotearoa as a child asylum seeker with her family from Iran. In her first term as MP, she was a member of the Foreign Affairs, Trade, and Defence and Education and Workforce Select Committees. Her work included successfully negotiating an end to New Zealand’s military deployments in the Middle East, refocusing the work of our Defence Force on climate crisis,
The visiting MPs and delegation return home tomorrow.