Friday, September 9, 2011

Pacific Forum successful - McCully

Murray McCully (NZ Herald)

By Katie Bradford-Crozier at the Pacific Island Forum

At last year's Pacific Island Forum there were heads shaking when the Foreign Minister announced this year's meeting would be held in Auckland in the week leading up to the Rugby World Cup.

There were concerns that the city just wouldn't be able to cope with an influx of Pacific leaders and their hangers on at the same time as thousands of tourists.

But Murray McCully says things have actually gone very well.

"When it was first suggested, some people thought this was going to be too ambitious for us to achieve, but I thought that it was a way in which we could show that this really is a pacific Rugby World Cup and of course we've got the region fully engaged."

One of the sideline issues at the forum has been freedom in West Papua.

Protesters have raised it and Green MP Catherine Delahunty made her point at yesterday's opening ceremony by holding a placard up, distracting delegates.

But Foreign Minister Murray McCully's staying away from having to deal with the problem.

"I said hello to them and I've asked the director of our pacific division to meet with them and I understand that's happening."

Meanwhile Barack Obama's hopes of being a pacific President are in evidence this week with a delegation of more than 50 Americans at the forum.

The group is led by deputy secretary of state Thomas Nides.

He met with Foreign Minister Murray McCully and says the message is the region is important strategically and economically.

"We have a whole Government approach, we have many members from the Commerce Department, the Treasury Department, the White House and everything in between," he says. "It shows our deep and everlasting commitment and friendship with those in New Zealand."