Jacinda was reported today as saying that young Niueans should return home after their education/travel etc. I’ve taught a number of Pacifika students, including Niueans. The reason many don’t want to return home seems to be threefold:
a. Poverty – in comparison with what many can achieve in NZ. Limited opportunities.
b. Social restrictions/expectations – very conservative, tightly controlled by family groupings. It’s my impression that, especially for young women this is the most important reason for them not wanting to return.
c. Nepotism & corruption – or should we pretend that is not rife in many of the Pacific Islands. Some of my ex students have belonged to the “wrong” families who are not part of the power-elite. They realise their opportunities are thus very limited.
So….my advice to these young students is: Stay in NZ. Contribute to NZ society. You’re welcome. You’ll face some racism at times here. You’ll also enjoy freedoms, experiences and opportunities you won’t get in the islands.
The result will be FAILED STATES…unless:
a. There is a recognition in the islands that some of the traditional cultural values and restrictions must change if they want the kids to return home.
b. NZ & Australian Govts need to do more to meaningfully develop the tourism economies of the islands. Subsidised flights? If Aussie won’t help…then NZ helps Cooks, Niue, Tokelau & W.Samoa. China has been poking holes in NZ’s “Island umbrella” for the past decade. Who can blame the islands for seeking help elsewhere? It is short-sighted and will, I suspect, be far more expensive in the long-run, in terms of security, to continue to pay lip-service to island development.
c. Someone with more knowledge of island society than myself, needs to tackle the problem of corruption.
Where to begin? These solutions are perhaps 1/2 baked & off the top-of-my-head…..but I would suggest:- Niue.
Why? Closest to NZ. Small population. Small country. It won’t cost NZ that much to really bring about change. Set an example for the others.
What? Some ideas: $200 return flights over winter. A few more small scale accommodation facilities. A fund to bank-roll some small-scale tourist activities. Help create real jobs. A “Resolution Conference”. A wind farm for energy. The issue of economic diversification needs to be tackled.
Yes, I can see problems with the above ideas….but Dear Jacinda….asking the kids to “please return home”, won’t work. Let me ask you this: If Laurell (Jacinda’s mum) was Niuean and you were in NZ doing well….would she want her daughter to return to a Niue with few jobs and lots of social restrictions….or despite missing you…would she want you “out there”, experiencing the ups & downs of modern life? (yes…a highly loaded question…but I hope still valid). I think I know Laurell well enough to be able to answer that question.
The problem is not too big. It is not unsolvable.