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Jacinda Ardern is backing away from comments she made about New Zealand taking climate refugees in her first international interview as Prime Minister.
Ardern is in Tuvalu attending the Pacific Islands Leaders Forum, her second trip to the Pacific in the past month. The island nation is threatened by climate change.
In her first international interview after taking office, Ardern said New Zealand may need to open our doors to those displaced by climate change.
She told CNN there could be “change in the way that we approach potentially climate change refugees in the future amongst our neighbours”.
But the Prime Minister told Newshub ahead of her trip to Tuvalu that it's not a conversation that Pacific leaders want to engage in.
“One of the things I have heard clearly from Pacific leaders is that that's not a conversation they're venturing into or wanting to have and so at that level it's not being had.”
No consideration has yet been made as to whether New Zealand's refugee quota would need to increase for climate refugees or whether they would fit into the same 1500 places as those fleeing war-torn countries like Syria.
“It's not a policy discussion that we've had simply because that's not what Pacific leaders are asking us to do,” the Prime Minister said.
She said the people of the Pacific want to stay where they are.
“They want to defend their homes and they want to defend their culture and their place, and that means pushing back on the conversation around having to abandon their homes and instead say: the world can do something about climate change, and it should.”
The Prime Minister's trip to Tuvalu will be her second trip to the Pacific in the past few weeks. When she travelled to Tokelau, National leader Simon Bridges rolled out a new attack line: “Part-time Prime Minister.”
Ardern said she “didn't spend much time thinking about” the attack line. She said she has “much more important things to focus on”.
Before Bridges tried it on, the hashtag #PartTimePM was thrown around by few Twitter trolls, it appears to have first cropped up in New Zealand when Ardern announced she was pregnant.
Ardern said she rejects the notion that you can't be a mum and a Prime Minister at the same time.
“Obviously, I reject that.”
Bridges has denied he engages with trolls.
But Ardern says the Pacific Islands Forum is too important for her not to go.
“We are members of the Pacific, this is our region,” she said. “We are the second-biggest donor into the Pacific.”
Pacific leaders will not be the only ones vying for Ardern's attention this week.
Monday night she had her first phone call with new UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson. The pair reaffirmed that New Zealand would be one of the first out of the starting blocks for a trade deal post-Brexit.
They also spoke about the next steps for the Christchurch Call: tackling online hatred.
The pair have agreed to catch-up in person when they travel to New York for the United Nations General Assembly next month.
Pacific Islands News Association
Who & What is PINA?
International News Safety Institute (INSI)
Media Helping Media