At the request of the Cook Islands New Zealand and China entered into a unique partnership to improve water quality in Rarotonga.
The $60 million project is a ‘world first’, being the very first time China has partnered with a developed country to deliver an aid and development project.
The project will see reticulated water mains laid across Rarotonga and is part of an on-going commitment by the Cook Islands Government to improve its water supply infrastructure.
The initiative was announced by Cook Islands Prime Minister Henry Puna, New Zealand Prime Minister John Key and Chinese Vice-Minister Cui Tiankai at the Pacific Islands Forum in Rarotonga. It will improve health outcomes for the people of the Cook Islands and provide an improved tourist experience for visitors.
The partnership will also provide New Zealand and China with an opportunity to learn from each other and cooperate in a practical and positive way that will benefit the Pacific.
New Zealand is committed to innovative partnerships that deliver tangible benefits through our international development. By partnering with China to deliver this project we hope to lay the foundations for further cooperation on development issues across the region.
New Zealand will contribute $15 million towards the cost of the project and China will provide approximately NZ$32 million by way of a concessional loan (RMB 165 million).
At the Pacific Forum US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton said New Zealand was leading the way in working with China on development projects in the Pacific and that the United States would “model” their own cooperation with China in the Pacific on New Zealand’s efforts.
The partnership was also a topic of discussion for panellists at the China Symposium in Wellington recently. Bringing together academics, politicians, journalists and diplomats the Symposium celebrated the 40th anniversary of diplomatic relations between New Zealand and China.
Peter Harris, Senior Fellow at Victoria University’s Centre for Strategic Studies, and a former Ford Foundation Representative in China welcomed the water partnership as an opportunity to promote engagement between China and other development partners in the Pacific.
“I think this is a very good initiative. Chinese aid tends to be segregated, and steps to bring together players in the field are very positive,” Dr Harris said.
MP Dr Jian Yang, said that the water partnership was made possible by the close diplomatic ties between China and New Zealand.
"I believe it will help protect China’s reputation in the South Pacific and the partnership will be based on the strong mutual trust between New Zealand and China,” said Dr Jian Yang.
The Cook Islands-led water partnership builds on work New Zealand has already carried out to improve the water quality of the Muri lagoon through a separate, but related, sanitation improvement programme. New Zealand will provide on-going support for both water and sanitation in the Cook Islands and has earmarked a further $10 million for related initiatives in the Cook Islands.