The Minister for Foreign Affairs, Murray McCully, is to be commended for the prompt action taken in coming to the aid of the tiny island nation Tuvalu, says the Right Rev Peter Cheyne, Moderator of the Presbyterian Church of Aotearoa New Zealand.
On Monday, the New Zealand Government sent two desalination plants, emergency water containers and officials to Tuvalu, after a state of emergency was declared last week due to an extreme shortage of drinking water.
The Very Rev Pamela Tankerlsey, Presbyterian Church Global Mission coordinator, says the New Zealand Government needs to “recognise that this crisis is an indicator that our small, vulnerable island nation neighbours need a formal agreement with New Zealand to accept people displaced by rising sea levels due to climate change”.
Pamela says that the NZ Government has allocated Tuvalu 75 places (NZ citizenship) annually. “However there is no link between this quota and climate change. We will see increasing numbers of Tuvaluan people in need of relocation – where will they go?”
The New Zealand Government’s efforts are focused on providing a range of assistance to support Pacific-identified priorities in addressing climate change, but not on offering relocation to the affected peoples, Pamela says.
The Presbyterian Church has a strong relationship with Te Ekalesia Kelisiano Tuvalu, the church in Tuvalu. The church’s General Secretary, Rev Tafue Molu Lusama, has told the Presbyterian Church:
“Most severe are the southern islands of Nukulaelae which is experiencing a difficult time with water shortage and local food as well. Here in the capital Funafuti, the government has sealed all the water catchments on the island and whatever little water that is left is rationed - about 20 litres per household.
As we face this critical challenge due to climate change, the church is trying to do what it can to assist the people most affected, and we need you to stand with us in our efforts.”
Notes to reporter:
- The MFAT website reads:
“New Zealand immigration policy does allow for a limited number of people from Pacific Access Countries (PAC) to gain residency in New Zealand. Tuvalu has 75 places allocated annually for Tuvaluan citizens within the PAC Quota. However there is no link between the PAC quota and climate change. Instead, the quota reflects New Zealand's long term commitment and links to the region and is designed to assist people from these countries gain residency visas to live and work in New Zealand.”
- The Presbyterian Church is the third largest denomination in Aotearoa New Zealand, with more than 400,000 people identifying as Presbyterian in the 2001 Census, and 30,000 regular church attenders.