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Australia supports new Pacific environment headquarters



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M E D I A RELEASE MINISTER FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS ALEXANDER DOWNER

AA24 7 April 1998

AUSTRALIA SUPPORTS NEW PACIFIC ENVIRONMENT HEADQUARTERS

I am pleased to announce that Australia will contribute $ 1.25 million to the construction of permanent headquarters for the South Pacific Regional Environment Program (SPREP) in Apia, Samoa. The new SPREP headquarters building will be located on a prestige site provided by the Government of Samoa.

The Prime Minister, Mr Howard, said last September at the South Pacific Forum in Rarotonga, that Australia would be willing to make a significant contribution to the SPREP headquarters project, which all Forum leaders considered to be a priority for the region.

I am pleased to note that both New Zealand and Papua New Guinea have also committed funds to the headquarters project and that other countries are currently considering their position. Substantial additional support is required in order for construction to proceed.

Australia’s support for regional organisations in the Pacific, such as SPREP, complements our development activities in individual countries. Sound environmental and natural resource management is particularly important to Pacific island nations and is a major focus of our development assistance program in the region.

For island countries, the environment is at the heart of their economies, their culture and their tourism potential. Since SPREP’s establishment it has played a key role in responding to the needs of its island membership. SPREP’s work in promoting regional cooperation and assisting to protect and improve the environment is based on five programs: Biodiversity and Natural Resource Conservation; Climate Change and Integrated Coastal Management; Waste Management, Pollution Prevention and Emergencies; Environmental Management Planning; and Environmental Education, Information and Training.

SPREP commenced as a program of the South Pacific Commission in 1980 and in 1995 was formally established as an autonomous regional organisation. Its membership consists of 22 Pacific island countries and territories and Australia, France, New Zealand and the United States. Australia has supported SPREP since its foundation both through core budget contributions and project funding. This financial year total Australian assistance, provided through AusAID, amounts to $1.2 million.

Media contacts: Innes Willox (Minister’s office) 02 6277 7500/0411 414 695 Geoff Adlide (AusAID) 02 6206 4967/0417 683 126