New Zealand has been traditionally and culturally aligned more closely to Polynesian states than Melanesian countries.
The country’s interest in building business ties with Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands and Vanuatu is relatively recent when compared to the historic links that Australia has had with Melanesia.
In the past couple of years, New Zealand has led several business delegations to these countries, playing catch up – and with a view to participate in their resource-fuelled growth in the energy and mining sectors. While business with Melanesian countries is on the rise, New Zealand companies do realise that there is significant potential to be tapped in the coming decades.
The nearly decade-old New Zealand Pacific Business Council last week arranged an afrer-5 seminar for its members on ‘Doing Business in Melanesia’ in Auckland.
Speakers included Amelie Wahl, Business Development Manager of Tegel Foods, Corporate lawyer Brian Clayton of Chapman Tripp, Graeme Roberts of Beca and Aucklander Gol Khadem, who is establishing a business in Honiara, Solomon Islands.
The speakers shared their experience of doing business in the Melanesian countries – the challenges, the opportunities and the rewards.
Much information was shared during the interactive discussions. Topics discussed ranged from logistic challenges to tariffs and trade agreements and regimes to local distribution and setting up businesses within the countries.
New Zealand’s international profile was highly respected and Kiwis were generally treated as friendly, trustworthy and knowledgeable, Mr Clayton said. Ms Wahl said the high tariff for imported chicken in Vanuatu was a challenge, while Mr Roberts detailed Beca’s long experience in infrastructure projects throughout Melanesia. Ms Khadem gave a highly personal account of her experience in setting up a business in Honiara.
The council is contemplating a business and trade delegation some time next year to a Melanesian country.