New Zealand will provide $15m to support Samoa with its climate change priorities.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern made the announcement on Tuesday morning, at a joint press conference with Samoan Prime Minister Fiame Naomi Mata’afa.

New Zealand will work with the Samoan government to determine where the climate funding will go: governance arrangements, and opportunities for future investments.

“This funding will help build Samoa’s resilience to the impacts of climate change and its transition to a low emissions economy,” Ardern said.

The government is also pledging $12m to rebuild Apia’s Savalalo Market, a historic market which was destroyed by a fire in 2016.

“The market was renowned as a hub for local crafts and food, run primarily by women small business owners. It is at the heart of Apia’s community and economic life, as well as formerly being a major tourist attraction. We are proud to support the government of Samoa re-establish it,” Ardern said.

The request for the money came from Samoa’s government, which will fund the rebuild in partnership with New Zealand. Both Ardern and Fiame have indentified climate change as a key joint issue.

She said the two leaders discussed several concerns in addition to climate change, such as economic resilience, and Covid-19.

Fiame said Samoa was focusing on rebuilding and recovery following the Covid-19 pandemic. Education and health were key, she said, but the Samoan government was also keen to rebuild its tourism sector.

The rebuild had already seen a significant shift in terms of government investment, she said, with a lot more spending going directly into communities, the public sector, servicing and other areas.

She described the talks as “very friendly and warm” and the discussions had taken place “in that spirit that we are friends and neighbours”.

Scheduling and frequency of flights to the island country would also help in the recovery, she said.

Prime Minister of Samoa Prime Minister Fiame Naomi Mata'afa  and New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern in Samoa.Prime Minister of Samoa Prime Minister Fiame Naomi Mata’afa and New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern. Photo: Pool photo / Karl Schodt

Ardern is in Samoa, having marked the 60th anniversary of the Treaty of Friendship between the two countries last night.

Alongside her is a delegation from New Zealand, including Leader of the Opposition Christopher Luxon, ministers Carmel Sepuloni and Aupito William Sio, and other political leaders and NGO sector heads.

Speaking to media after the announcement, Ardern said New Zealand was “very open” to working with Samoa on revisiting the Recognised Seasonal Employer scheme, which has allowed workers from Pacific Islands to enter seasonal work in New Zealand.

“We’re totally respectful for the fact that Samoa wants to go through this process,” she said.

“We want the RSE scheme to benefit both Samoa and New Zealand and what Samoa has identified is that in some cases where it was primarily intended to be an employment opportunity for those in Samoa who are unemployed, it has increasingly over time taken skilled labour out of Samoa.”

She said the Samoan government had indicated it wanted to discuss how the scheme worked for them at a Cabinet level.

“My view is the RSE scheme will continue, it’s just making sure that we give Samoa a bit of time to see how it’s working for them as they recover from Covid and as they seek not to lose too much of their skilled workforce.”

She said after the most recent Pacific Island Forum, New Zealand had been grouped in with the Polynesia sub-regional group.

“That actually gives us an opportunity to work more closely within our region on issues within the PIF, so not a lot of fanfare around that but I think that’s a significant outcome.”

Following an ‘ava ceremony and reception on Monday, she attended a flag raising and guard of honour inspection on Tuesday morning.