NZ, Aus foreign ministers talk aid plans

By Audrey Young

Foreign Minister Murray McCully was in Canberra yesterday to have special talks on aid with his Australian counterpart, Kevin Rudd, ahead of the 40th Pacific Island Forum in Auckland in September.

Mr McCully said afterwards it was a special meeting outside the regular six-monthly talks to discuss regional matters in the wake of a review of the Australian aid agency, AusAid.

"I'm bound to say that the review leaves us on the same page in many respects and we are just looking to see that senior officials on both sides got closer together as a result of any changes, rather than further apart."

He said the Pacific islands Forum would build on the compact on better donor co-ordination agreed to at the Cairns forum in 2009.

"It seemed to us that New Zealand and Australia should be leading by example when we get to the forum meeting in September and we could only do that if a couple of months out we'd spend time getting genuinely more aligned and understanding each other's strategies in different places and deferring to each other's leads in various places."

AusAid is a stand-alone aid agency and about 36 per cent of its budget goes to the Pacific compared with New Zealand's aid agency which spends about 50 per cent on aid and has been absorbed back into the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

- NZ Herald

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