Tuesday, June 14, 2011

ABC Radio Australia Asia Pacific News, 13 June 2011

Quake rocks Christchurch as inquest opens

A 5.2-magnitude earthquake struck near New Zealand's quake-hit city of Christchurch on Monday, as an inquest opened on the devastation caused by last February's tremors.

A building close to the inquest was evacuated.

The US geological service measured the quake, which struck just 10 kilometres from Christchurch, at 5.2-magnitude. It occurred at a depth of 11 kilometres.

Police said they had received some reports of damage in the city, including flooding, but they were not aware of any injuries.

The Christchurch Press reported a building had collapsed, with some people believed to be trapped inside.

ClosedMuch of central Christchurch remains closed off since February's 6.3-magnitude quake, which levelled buildings, killing 181 people in the country's deadliest earthquake for 80 years.

The inquest - into the collapse of one of the buildings in the February quake - was briefly evacuated following the latest tremor.

ABC New Zealand correspondent Dominique Schwartz, who was attending the inquest, said plaster fell from the ceiling of the inquest venue as the earthquake hit.

Power has been cut to some areas of the city and Mayor Bob Parker says emergency services are checking reports of injuries and damage.

In all, 106 people, including 65 foreign students, died when the Canterbury Television (CTV) building collapsed and then burst into flames in February's quake.

The inquest is into the bsix-storey uilding's collapse. It  housed the King's Education language school.

Most of the foreign students killed were from China and Japan.

City engineers had declared the building safe following another quake in September last year.

The inquest will last three days.

PNG gets $11m boost to HIV prevention

The Australian government is providing $11 million to help stop Papua New Guinea mothers passing HIV onto their babies.

A partnership with the Clinton Health Access Initiative will help mothers in PNG's Highlands get drugs that prevent the transmission of HIV to their babies.

Australia's foreign minister, Kevin Rudd, says the money will also fund paediatric care for more than 700 HIV-positive children.

Overall Australia funds 60 per cent of the country's response to the disease.

AusAID said 100,000 Papua New Guineans were tested for HIV last year and antiretroviral drugs are now available in every province.

PNG has the second-worst HIV/AIDS epidemic in the Asia-Pacific region, behind Thailand.

New hopes for government stability in New Caledonia

The French high commissioner in Noumea, Albert Dupuy, says he hopes New Caledonia will have a stable government as a result of recent developments.

On Friday, the Congress re-elected Harold Martin of the anti-independence Future Together Party as new president and the pro-independence politician Gilbert Tyuienon as vice-president.

The two were elected three times before this year but their administration collapsed every time because the Caledonia Together Party resigned from the collegial body.

The 11 government members will meet again on Thursday to assign the portfolios.

Paris initiated a change to the electoral law to stop the serial resignations, giving any new government an 18-month grace period, but it will not be ready for another month.

Fijian pro-democracy group opposes Mara visit

A Fijian pro-democracy movement says New Zealand's decision to let former Lieutenant Colonel Ratu Tevita Mara to visit New Zealand is ill-advised.

Nik Naidu from the Coalition for Democracy in Fiji told Pacific Beat Ratu Tevita is associated with human rights abuses in Fiji.

"This is a real big set back for the pro-democracy movement and in  particular for the people of Fiji," Mr Naidu said.

"We have a man who has been directly involved in the torture, sexual abuse and violent crimes against innocent people in Fiji, and yet he's been allowed to travel to Australia and now New Zealand. It's a real slap in the face of human rights and democracy."

But Ratu Tevita, who is currently in Australia and facing charges of sedition in Fiji, says there is no evidence to support those allegations.

"I don't know where he's basing his allegations from," he said.

"He lives in New Zealand, he doesn't live in Fiji and as I said before, I did not take part in any human rights abuses."

Chinese propose urban development on Bougainville

Chinese investors have presented details of a plan to build a major new urban centre on Papua New Guinea's island of Bougainville.

The Chinese had been invited to build the Special Economic Zone by the Autonomous Bougainville.

The new urban centre would be built on government-owned land on the northern tip of Bougainville Island and would include a bridge across the Buka Passage to Buka Island.

Bougainville's President John Momis says the development would have lots of benefits for Bougainvilleans.

"They are making a proposal to build a modern township that would attract tourists and other investors to come and invest their money," he said.

The proposal would have investors "develop projects such as steel prefab housing materials, hotels and things like that," he said.

President Momis says the Chinese have the capital required for such a project.

He says he has engaged an independent expert to advise on the structure the Special Economic Zone.

Vanuatu business criticises free trade deal

Business leaders in Vanuatu have spoken out against the Melanesian Free Trade agreement claiming it favours bigger Pacific nations like Fiji and Papua New Guinea.

Under the Melanesian Spearhead Group Free trade deal - which includes Fiji, PNG, Solomon Islands, New Caledonia and Vanuatu - member countries are allowed to sell products to each other, tax free.

But the smaller islands say their imports from the bigger countries far outweigh exports and they want an immediate change to the agreement, in a bid to save businesses and jobs.

The former CEO of the Vanuatu Chamber of Commerce, John Aruhuri, says Vanuatu is at a clear disadvantage.

"The influx of these importations and the duties going down to zero means whether or not they are able to survive, which means the possibilities of a number of them maybe going out of business and jobs lost," Mr Aruhuri said.

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