MINISTER FIERRAVANTI-WELLS: Volunteers and Australian civilian culture are a very important component of disaster preparedness and disaster management.

Can I first of all say, and commend Samoa on this initiative.

One of the things that we found in our region is that where the disaster response is coordinated by the country, it is a better response, and we have seen that with various recent events.

We saw that with Fiji and with cyclone Winston, because the country that has faced the disaster is in the best position to be able to know what they need in response and ask for those requests, so from Australia’s perspective, we are very, very happy to support Samoa and support you in this venture.

Can I commend you for this venture because I think it is very much in keeping with the regional desire to have a framework for disaster preparedness, disaster management, and in fact that was at the recent Pacific Island Forum Leaders’ Meeting, it was decided that we would have a regional disaster preparedness disaster framework.

And what Samoa is doing is very much preparing for that framework, so we are looking forward to that.

Good to be here and good to be able to support Samoa in this situation, and it is good to be in Samoa, this is my third visit, in fact my second in a week!

I certainly have become a frequent visitor, but it is wonderful to be here, it has been another very, very good and informative trip to Samoa for me.

I came primarily to participate in the opening of the Green Climate Fund board meeting.

Australia is very proud to co-chair the Green Climate Fund at this point in time, and so we wanted very much for this meeting to occur, and to occur in the Pacific so it could have a very Pacific focus, and we have worked very hard with Pacific countries to ensure their preparedness and help them in terms of preparing for potential proposals to come to this board.

As well as the Green Climate Fund board meeting, I have also had the opportunity to do other things, to focus on Australia’s overseas development assistance to Samoa.

Yesterday I attended the disabilities forum. Australia has been very involved and very supportive of Samoa, particularly Samoa’s recent journey towards ratification of the convention for people with disabilities, and may I commend the Samoan Government for that initiative, and Australia contributed financially to assist Samoa to get to this point and we remain committed to supporting Samoa in its future endeavours.

Also visiting here, I had the honour and privilege to meet their Highnesses this morning and it was lovely to visit, and of course a visit to Samoa would not be a visit without a very good visit this morning to the Robert Louis Stevenson Museum. And of course yesterday we made another announcement in relation to PacSAFE program, which we would like to see benefit the Pacific, particularly in terms of mapping climate information and climate mapping.

Good data is vitally important for planners such as here, and to you, for Anna and your team, this is the sort of mapping and information data that is vitally important for you.

As I said another good visit to Samoa, I am very, very pleased to once again be here.

Happy to take questions.

REPORTER: Can I just ask you again, what the importance is of Australia supporting the work of the Green Climate Fund, particularly in the Pacific- why the Pacific?

MINISTER FIERRAVANTI-WELLS: Well, Australia is being very committed to the Green Climate Fund, apart from co-chairing; we have been a substantial contributor to the Fund.

Australia spends a lot of money in terms of assisting and building resilience in the Pacific, it is about $300 million over four years, and of course the Pacific, seven of the ten most disaster prone countries are in the Pacific.

So it is vitally important that we assist the Pacific to build that resilience, and whether it is building bridges, and yesterday in fact, some of you probably did not trek up with us up to the mouth of the Fuluasou River. We were able to see firsthand how the river, its three streams flow down and then go down to the flood plain and then eventually find its way up to the mouth of the river, now this is up here and it could be any other place in the Pacific.

These issues, and the issues that Samoa faces in relation to water management, river management, these are very, very common across the Pacific. So for us, whether it is bridges, whether it is water, whether it is sanitation, whether it is assisting with meteorological climate information, whatever, the better prepared and the more information that our Pacific countries have, the more people like Filomena and her team are going to be better prepared. So when the disasters do come, we can forecast them better, we can prepare for them better and we can deal with them much, much better.

So for that reason Australia, we are the largest country in the area, the Pacific are our neighbours, and when you do have the largest house in the street you help your neighbours, and that it why Australia is committed to assisting and helping in the Pacific.

REPORTER: One of the legislative meetings for the Pacific Islanders, were to talk about ways to make it easier and have faster access to the processes and funds? How can we, as Pacific Islanders access them?

MINISTER FIERRAVANTI-WELLS: The Green Climate Fund is an important fund, and today and over the next couple of days they will be considering various proposals, three of those proposals are being considered at the moment.

One is for Samoa, basically water management framework for the Fuluasou catchment area, there is another project for Vanuatu, and then there is another project which is seven countries in the Pacific.

So what we have tried to do as Co-chair of the Green Climate Fund is actually to assist our Pacific countries in terms of accessing money, preparing valid proposals for consideration, we have chaired information sessions. In fact, I was in Frankfurt at the meeting of the Asian Development Bank, where we actually chaired a 101 on climate fund access. So that is the sort of stuff that we have done in the lead up to this meeting.

If these three projects are accepted, it will now mean about five projects in the Pacific, there is another one in Fiji and so this will bring the three projects under consideration over the next couple of days are worth US$103 million.

So that is the three major projects, but particularly for Samoa the acceptance of this proposal, I think will make a huge difference in terms of water management and obviously will assist in future, to avoid the sort of disasters that we saw with cyclone Evan when that happened.

Thank you very much.

I forgot to mention also, I visited the new Parliament House site yesterday, and that was absolutely fantastic because of course that was a gift from Australia as part of the 50th Anniversary.

And it was really good to see this very innovative building, modern- but also built along traditional Samoan lines, so we are very very pleased to see that, it is a lasting testimony to the friendship between Australia and Samoa.

Thank you.

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