A $44.9 million (US$27 million) funding package across three projects has been announced during the second leg of Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters mission to the Pacific.

The Minister was in Papua New Guinea as part of the five Pacific nation visits this week.

Minister Peters met with Papua Prime Minister James Marape to discuss partnership, democracy, shared Pacific priorities and connections to Asia.

During the visit, Minister Peters and Climate Change Minister Simon Watts announced New Zealand will provide $17 million (US$10.23 million) to a new solar upgrade project.

Peters says the Buka Electricity Grid Solar Upgrade Project is a flagship green energy initiative for Papua New Guinea.

“It is expected to ultimately reduce the local Buka grid’s reliance on diesel by up to 90 percent, and increase reliable access to electricity for the entire population of Buka Island,” said Minister Peters.

The Project will initially build a six megawatt solar farm as part of a significant co-investment with Australia. It is one of the first major large-scale solar installations in Papua New Guinea.

Minister Watts said, “Improved grid electricity access is expected to enhance resilience, enable efficient work and communication, drive economic development, and contribute to a more sustainable energy system overall.”

Alongside this, NZ has committed to supporting peace and development in PNG Highlands, committing NZ$9 million (US$5.41 million) to a project aimed at supporting peace and development initiatives in the Papua New Guinea provinces of Hela and Southern Highlands.

Minister Peters said, “the armed communal violence in the Highlands provinces of Papua New Guinea is one of the most significant conflict issues in the region.”

“Contributing to this crucial peacebuilding work is an important demonstration of New Zealand’s commitment to a stable and peaceful Pacific.”

Health is another priority for both nations and New Zealand will contribute NZ$18.9 million (US$11.37 million) for the construction of a new centre for eye health in Port Moresby. Minister Peters alongside Minister for Pacific Peoples Dr Shane Reti were on site to visit the centre.

Dr Reti said, “Health is an important sector of New Zealand’s development cooperation with Papua New Guinea, and this contribution demonstrates our commitment to supporting the government and people of Papua New Guinea.”

The funding for the new Centre for Eye Health marks an extension of the long-term support that New Zealand has previously provided to eye health in Papua New Guinea through the Fred Hollows Foundation.

Health, infrastructure, renewable energy and stability are among the themes for the visit to Papua New Guinea.

Minister Peters said Papua New Guinea carries serious weight in the Pacific.

“It is crucial given current geostrategic challenges that our two countries work more closely together.”

The New Zealand delegation will also visit Vanuatu and Tuvalu.