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Pacific

Winston Peters laughs off misnaming Shane Reti

Foreign Affairs Minister Winston Peters has repeatedly referred to Health Minister Dr Shane Reti as NZ First MP Shane Jones, in public addresses as the pair head into the final days of their Pacific mission.

Peters was at the National University of Samoa in Apia where he announced $3.5 million over five years to the Bachelor of Health Science Programme and $30 million over five years to the Polynesian Health Corridors - a scheme which aims to link health systems in Polynesia to New Zealand.

The pair are on their third day day together on the Pacific mission and will leave Apia for Auckland at midday on Saturday. They also spent a day in Tonga and the Cook Islands.

When inviting Reti to speak at the University, Peters called him “Dr Shane Jones”.

Earlier that morning, when holding a press conference with Samoan Prime Minister Fiamē Naomi Mata’afa, he also said it had been a pleasure with “my colleague the Honourable Shane Jones ... Shane Reti” before laughing and saying “after Waitangi I cannot get past this, I tell you”.

Peters and Jones have a long-standing political relationship.

On Wednesday (NZT), in Tonga, Peters referred to Reti as Jones while making a speech in front of political leaders and the Tongan Royal family, for the opening of a new pharmacy warehouse, built with New Zealand’s support.

On Thursday, in the Cook Islands, Peters again referred to Reti as Jones as he made a speech for the opening of a New Zealand-support farmers market. Reti, watching on in the crowd, was laughing.

The pair will wind up their Pacific mission on Saturday.

The $3.5m for the Bachelor of Health Sciences will be used for 20 scholarships to cover the first three years of study.

“Can I just say, when you graduate students, please don’t leave and go somewhere else,” Peters said.

The $30 million for the Polynesian Health Corridor is funded through New Zealand’s International Development Cooperation Programme, and delivered by the Ministry of Health’s Public Health Agency. It supports Cook Islands, Niue, Samoa, Tokelau, Tonga and Tuvalu.

Peters said the scheme was the result of a commitment after the measles outbreak.

“There were teams in here from New Zealand assisting local people to get on top of the problem, which was probably foreseeable, but when you let the guard down things like that happen,” he said.

“That is not to make a political point but to say that it resulted in a deeper commitment to ensure that we could do our best in terms of the road ahead.

Peters and Reti also discussed educational and development opportunities for Samoa’s health workforce with Samoa’s Health and Education Ministers.

Reti said he had spoken about the impacts of the Polynesian Corridors Program in Tonga, the Cook Islands, and Samoa.

“We look forward to the next phase of the programme, which will include a focus on health security, non-communicable diseases – especially mental health and cancer control – and access to essential medicines.”