My word, what a week it has been for the Pacific, as Jacinda "Santa Claus" Ardern has wound her way round the islands handing out a small fortune.

The most traditional aspect of the largesse was the $3 million in Samoa and $10m in Tonga for Cyclone Gita damage. That's what we have always done, it is driven by our overarching view and role that we are somehow guardians of the Pacific. And along with Australia, we are roughly what America is to the world. The powerful heavyweights with the influence and wallets.

But there was more, as they say. Over $6m in Samoa for a private sector development programme; $5m in Niue for solar power; almost a million for roads and water.

Eleven million dollars in Tonga for electricity, that's a five-year programme so presumably that'll be topped up - and then the news that superannuation for the Cooks, Niue and Tokelau is portable (in other words you don't even have to be in New Zealand). You can stay home and collect it.


Now that is on top of all the millions we already hand out, and it is not unreasonable to ask several questions.

How much is too much, what return do we get for this money, if anything? Is the money tagged to any form of governance requirements and is the money tracked appropriately so we know it is well spent?

And the reason for those questions is over the past handful of years the aid budget in the Pacific has come under increasing scrutiny based on the fact alarm bells have been ringing. Here is a philosophical debate around tagging aid, in other words if you expect something back, is it really aid?

But this week's handouts are on top of, for example the $14m a year we give Niue, that by the way is $9000 for every man woman and child, so a family of four gets $36,000 a year from us without ever having to get out of bed.

In Tokelau its $11,500 per person - $45,000 for a family of four.
Surely we are entitled to ask, where does it go? What are the improvements? And just how much longer does it go on for?

Without putting too fine a point on it, if your average family is getting $45,000 - what else do you need? And if you don't need anything else, is it any wonder the alarm bells are ringing over the lack of progress?

While no one would argue over assistance after a cyclone, just where is the line over power and roading?

How much of a Tokelauan road is our responsibility versus theirs? If we're footing the bills, why do they have a government? Why don't we run the place? Can you really expect independence, and a permanent handout? Is this genuine assistance, or an industry?


Is the Pacific actually getting an better for this - or has it just become permanently reliant?