Go Fast Alone, Go Far Together: Australia and New Zealand Visit Malaita Province
Australian High Commissioner Dr Lachlan Strahan and New Zealand High Commissioner Georgina Roberts travelled together to Malaita Province this week. In Malaita, and elsewhere in Solomon Islands, New Zealand and Australia are partnering with Solomon Islands Government and communities in sectors like education, infrastructure and health to make a difference to the lives of Solomon Islanders.
Georgina Roberts and Dr. Lachlan Strahan visited a number of sites together. The first stop was Bina village in west Kwaio, where Australia and New Zealand came together with Minister for Fisheries and Marine Resources Nestor Giro, Supervising Premier for Malaita Nelson Lenty, landowners and community members to discuss the path ahead for the Bina Harbour Tuna Processing Plant.
In their remarks, speakers reflected on the importance of collaboration and partnership in driving the project forward. The New Zealand High Commissioner noted appreciation for the long standing working relationship New Zealand held with MFRM and the Bina community, and congratulated the Bina landholders for working to bring the project to this stage. She announced that New Zealand has committed to funding a Project Management Unit to ensure good project coordination and help bring in investors. Dr. Strahan said ‘Australia and New Zealand are committed to deliver infrastructure to drive economic development in Solomon Islands. Bina Harbour has the potential to be transformational not just for Malaita, but for the entire country. If stakeholders can come together – the national government, provincial government, community and landowners, the private sector and foreign partners – we can do great things like Bina Harbour.’
The High Commissioners were also delighted to celebrate International Literacy Day at Osa’ania village in West Kwaio, where they observed community-based early childhood literacy work in action. New Zealand and Australia are committed partners with Solomon Islands in the education sector, recognising the critical role it plays in community, human and economic development across the country.
Recognising the importance of the role community plays in partnering to deliver this assistance, Ms Roberts said while Australia and New Zealand provided funding, ‘the most important thing stap inside iufala community lo hia’. Following a magnificent welcoming ceremony, Dr Strahan commended the community’s strong display of culture – ‘the beating heart of every nation’.
Partnership and collaboration is most important in the response to the COVID-19 pandemic. At the national and provincial levels, Solomon Islands Government has done an outstanding job to prevent and prepare for a possible COVID-19 outbreak. Australia and New Zealand, together with other partners like the WHO ,UNICEF and Japan, are working with the Government to support this effort and the broader health sector. The Australian and New Zealand delegations saw more inspiring frontline officials in action at the vaccination centre in Auki, working tirelessly to protect people by administering vaccine doses, raising awareness and countering misinformation. AstraZeneca doses provided by Australia, New Zealand and Japan are currently being administered in central and northern Malaita, with the rollout to continue in the east and south of the province soon.
Commending their good efforts, Dr Strahan said ‘We are committed to supporting the Government in its fight against COVID-19, and we have been encouraging everyone to do their part and get their jabs. However, it is you – the doctors, the nurses, the pastors, the leaders of Malaita – who are making a real difference. Everyone should get the jab now, they should not wait until it’s too late.’
In Malaita, in Honiara, in Guadalcanal and, in all provinces across the country, Australia and New Zealand are committed to working in partnership with Solomon Islands Government for the benefit of all Solomon Islanders. As Ms. Roberts said, quoting an old African proverb: ‘If you want to go fast, go alone; If you want to go far, go together. Bae iumi waka tugeda, bae iumi go ahead’.