New Zealanders urged to deepen their knowledge of Pacific

New Zealanders are being urged to look beyond the sea, sand and surf and understand the Pacific better.

The call comes from the Pacific Cooperation Foundation which has just carried out its first-ever survey about New Zealanders' perception of the Pacific​.

PMN News reports the Foundation's Executive Director David Vaeafe says the report based on the survey gives a mixed picture of knowledge about the Pacific, with only 29 percent of those surveyed saying they had a good understanding of Pacific cultures.

"It clearly shows that New Zealanders' knowledge of the region is still very much as a holiday destination. 

"They don't know the ins and outs of the region and its workings. It begs the question are we teaching enough in New Zealand schools enough about the region and our connections with the region."

More than half of the 2,300 New Zealanders agreed that Pacific history should be taught as part of New Zealand’s history.​

Foundation Board Chair Anne Fitisemanu says the survey was undertaken because it was important to understand what New Zealanders thought about the Pacific and to be able to inform discussion, debate and policy decisions.

"We found 91 per cent of New Zealanders view developing ties with the Pacific as at least somewhat important, with the large majority expecting the Pacific to impact positively on New Zealand’s future – economically, politically and culturally.” 

​Vaeafe says many were unaware of the strong economic ties to the region.

"New Zealanders didn't realise that the Pacific region is one of New Zealand's biggest trading partners as a whole. Two billion dollars worth of exports go out from New Zealand to the Pacific and we import about a billion dollars in goods from the region. So it's a very vital trading partner."

Other findings from the survey showed that 80 percent of Pacific peoples, 66 percent of Māori, and 56 percent of New Zealand Europeans agreed that developing ties with the Pacific was very or extremely important. 

Three out of four respondents feel that New Zealand will benefit from economic growth across the Pacific. 

Most too want New Zealand to play a bigger role in providing support to the Pacific, with 82 percent at least fairly concerned about the role of world powers such as China and the United States in the region. 

More than 60 percent would also like to see New Zealand do more to support its Pacific neighbours cope with climate change. ​​