Pacific news in brief for July 1

Papua New Guinea – census

Papua New Guinea’s administrative services minister Richard Masere says there will be a seven-day “mop-up exercise” following the census count.

The census was originally scheduled to wrap up on Sunday but has been plagued by problems.

The National newspaper reported on Friday Masere saying all provinces had received their census materials, including the digital tablets, and counting was still progressing in most provinces.

He said the extra period would allow provinces enough time to complete their population count as many had started late due to logistical and financial issues.

He also said there would also be a data-cleansing exercise until 30 August to accurately determine the country’s population figure.

Meanwhile, the Post-Courier reported on Friday that election officials were saying the actual headcount in the Highlands provinces will start this week.

Tonga – budget

Tonga’s Legislative Assembly has passed the National Annual Budget amounting to $899.2 million (Tongan Pa’anga, TOP) for the financial year 2024-2025.

Matangi Tonga Online reported the Appropriation Act with amendments for the 2024/25 Financial Year was passed by 21 votes, following its third reading in the Assembly.

In the new budget, TOP$664,210,800 will be allocated to the Government Services effective 1 July.

Finance Minister Tiofilusi Tiueti said in Parliament the government and donor development partners will fund the budget.

The government’s national budget theme is “prioritising its greatest assets – the people of Tonga to building a strong and inclusive society where every individual can thrive”.

Reports from the public of drugs being traded at the market prompted the raid.

Samoa – drugs

A rise in drug-related crimes in Samoa has been raised by several MPs in Parliament.

One MP highlighted the escalating involvement of youth in drug offences, and another MP underscored the urgent need for enhanced security measures in light of increasing crime rates.

The Samoa Observer reported these sentiments were echoed by MPs across various constituencies, who collectively stressed the critical need for immediate attention to these pressing issues.

In response, Minister of Works, Transport and Infrastructure Olo Fiti Vaai said a new x-ray scanner in Matautu will bolster national security.

He signalled it as a proactive step towards preventing the influx of illicit drugs into the country.

Meth seizures have increased exponentially indicating the prevalence of the drug in Samoa. Police are also concerned that illegal firearms are also being found during the meth raids.

New Zealand/Tuvalu – visit

Green Party MP Huhana Lyndon says she is keen to meet with health officials in Tuvalu while she is there.

Tuvalu went to the polls in January this year to elect a new 16-member Parliament.

Lyndon is there as part of a United Nations programme to support the newly elected parliamentarians there.

She said as well as working with the newly elected MPs, she was also keen to learn more about Tuvalu’s health system.

Lyndon said several Australian MPs are also taking part in the programme.

New Zealand/Pacific – coastwatchers

World War II coastwatchers from across the Pacific are set to be recognised In New Zealand.

During the war, a network of civilians and military personnel kept watch 24/7 for enemy aircraft and ships from stations across the Pacific.

For decades, civilian Pacific Islands coastwatchers did not receive the same recognition as their New Zealand counterparts..

Seventeen New Zealand coastwatchers and five other Allied prisoners were executed by Japanese personnel on Tarawa in 1942.

This week (Tuesday 2 July), the Governor-General of Aotearoa, Dame Cindy Kiro, will present the families of 25 Pacific Islands coastwatchers with certificates recognising the service.

Palau – grant

The US Department of the Interior has announced US$7 million in new grants for Palau under the Compact of Free Association (COFA).

Department Assistant Secretary Carmen Cantor announced $6m in COFA Infrastructure Maintenance grants for fiscal years 2022, 2023, and 2024, including $1m Technical Assistance Program funding provided through the Office of Insular Affairs.

The Pacific Island Times reported the grants represented three years of US contributions to complement Palau’s maintenance of education and health facilities, water systems, the Palau National Capitol, road failure repairs, and other imprtant projects.

Palau – fungus

A fungus is suspected to be causing the widespread death of native trees in Palau over the past three years.

The uduiud tree is an endemic species to Palau and holds strong cultural significance.

The Island Times reported the suspected culprit is a Brazilian fungus that has spread across Southeast Asia.

Local and international experts are working to confirm this.

Authorities are urging residents to report unusual tree deaths, sterilise tree cutting tools, and avoid moving dead uduiud wood to other areas which could spread the fungus.

According to the news on Radio New Zealand

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