NZ Pacific Students Encouraged to Study Climate Change

The director of climate change resilience for the Pacific region’s environment organisation working for 14 Pacific governments, along with American and French territories, is encouraging New Zealand Pacific students to consider climate change work.

“Whether they serve the Pacific region here or in New Zealand, for me personally it would be satisfying if the passion of the people who work here could rub off on someone who’s a Pacific Islander, who can bring their knowledge and assistance back to the Pacific,” says Tagaloa Cooper, Climate Change Resilience Director for the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP).

Climate change and building resilience is a significant priority for Pacific island nations and governments in the region.

But there’s very little media coverage on the work that Pacific island nations are doing to address the impacts of climate change. This means many in New Zealand, including Pacific, have little idea of the research and activities already underway in the islands of the Pacific region, outside of western nations.

In fact, New Zealand and other western nations could learn much from Samoa and the rest of the Pacific nations on resilience, adaptation and mitigation when it comes to climate change. India sent over an official delegation recently to Samoa to learn from them.

The Secretariat for the Pacific Regional Environment Programme, or SPREP, as it’s widely known, plays a critical support role working for Pacific countries including New Zealand, Samoa, Cook Islands, Tonga and the American and French territories in the region.

A daughter of the Pacific: Tagaloa Cooper, Director of Climate Change Resilience for SPREP, the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme. Photo credit: Women in Climate Change.

Ms Cooper says SPREP often hosts masters students interested in climate change and the environment.

“We’ve had students here from Harvard. We’ve got a student here from Wollongong. We have a partnership with the University of Newcastle and we’d love to have Pacific students who are studying in New Zealand come out here and spend time with us.”

If students are interested, it’s simply a matter of going to the main SPREP website and there’s one contact address.

“That’s sent through to HR and copied to me if there’s an interest in climate change. We’d love to have Pacific students who are studying in New Zealand come out here and spend a bit of time with us,” she says.

“Because of the supervision element and the core work we do, it will depend on need. Sometime it’s worked well where we’ve had a specific need to do a quick study on, for example, finance climate streams into the Pacific. We had a student work on that and it was a benefit to her study as well as to us.”

“Obviously there’s rules around information that they would be able to access because we work for countries and so we work with countries’ information,” says Tagaloa.  “So it’s quite important to be very clear on terms of reference. But just exposure to our Pacific students hopefully will get some of them as professionals to come out and serve the Pacific region.”

Tagaloa, whose grandfather Sir Robert Rex was Niue’s first Premier and a founder of the Pacific Forum, has been working in environmental work for years including more than six years at SPREP.

“I’m a daughter of the Pacific. In this work, whilst it looks exciting and there’s a lot of people who say, there’s so much travel, it’s so exciting, it’s actually very challenging,” she says. “Working for 14 Pacific islands countries and French and American territories, “it’s a lot of hard work…it’s a very fast moving landscape.”

More information on the Secretariat of the Pacific Environment Programme (SPREP) can be found at

Acknowledgement: This is a story collaboration between and New Zealand’s National Pacific Radio Trust’s Pacific Media Network (Radio531pi/Pacific Radio News/NiuFM) Newsroom. Featured photo is Samoa’s Manono Island with the islands of Savaii and Upolu in the background. Credit:

Post Author: Vienna Richards

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