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Is our Government considering issuing 'climate change visas' to our Pacific neighbours?

New Zealand's government will use part of a massive expansion of foreign aid to tackle climate change in the Pacific - but any decision on "climate-change visas" might be some way off.

Since March, Foreign Minister Winston Peters has called for a reset in relationships with Pacific neighbours, warning New Zealand and Australia risk losing relevance as nations with deeper pockets take more interest in the region.

That culminated in the announcement this month of a $NZ714 million boost to foreign aid over four years, most of which is expected to go to the Pacific.

By 2050 it's estimated up to 54 per cent of the nation’s main island will be inundated with sea water. Source: 1 NEWS

Today, Mr Peters said cabinet had agreed to long-term plan aimed at helping Pacific nations deal with climate change.

"Development assistance will focus on practical projects for climate change adaption, mitigation and ways to avert climate displacement of people," Mr Peters said.

"This includes building better infrastructure and developing disaster preparedness."

The proposal discussed by cabinet also calls for a look at how to deal with the migration that will be caused by rising sea levels and other climate challenges in the Pacific.

The idea of a "climate-change visa" was first mooted by Climate Change Minister James Shaw last year.

But while officials said spending was needed to "promote better settlement outcomes" in the event of migration across the region, any talk to changing New Zealand's immigration laws has been relegated to a longer-term plan, possibly until 2024.

"Once a clearer picture of Pacific needs and priorities emerges, there might be scope to increase the climate focus of existing policies," the paper says.

Mr Peters said Pacific leaders had made their wishes clear.

"(They) have told us that their people want to live in their own countries for as long as possible, and retain social and cultural identity," he said.


1 NEWS pacific correspondent Barabra Dreaver reports from the area in Fiji. Source: 1 NEWS


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