New Zealand is seeking a higher level of engagement with Barbados and the rest of the region that will see its involvement in the areas of renewable energy; agriculture and disaster risk management.

This was underscored recently as High Commissioner of New Zealand to Barbados, Jan Henderson, paid a courtesy call on Minister of Education, Science, Technology and Innovation, Ronald Jones, at his office at Constitution Road, St. Michael.

Acknowledging that it was the first time New Zealand would have a physical presence in the region, Mrs. Henderson said the recent establishment of their High Commission at Collymore Rock was historic.

She added that its focus would be on these three priority areas, and this would be reflected in the scholarships extended to the region.

???We are looking to enhance engagement with Barbados, particularly through the scholarship scheme, and if we can find specific areas in those three and even outside the scholarship programme, we???d be certainly willing to follow that up,??? Mrs. Henderson said.

Expanding further on these interests, the High Commissioner added: ???We have more than 80 per cent of our electricity generated by renewable energy, mainly hydro, geothermal and wind. So we have been doing this for 60 years, and that geothermal technology is something that some countries like St. Lucia, Dominica are interested in and we can aid them.???

While noting that earthquakes in New Zealand and the Caribbean???s hurricane season led to consideration being given to disaster risk management, she added that the third area, agriculture, was being viewed in terms of food cold storage and biotechnology, although the region???s needs would also be considered.

Minister Jones, in welcoming the High Commissioner???s proposals, said Barbados??? relationship with New Zealand had been largely based on the scholarship programme, with several persons benefitting as a result of Commonwealth Scholarships.

He also alluded to the role cricket played in ensuring movement to that country and excellent contests between cricketers in the two regions.

On the issue of renewable energy, the Minister said: ???We are now only at about between 17 and 19 per cent usage of renewable energy for photovoltaic and solar systems. We had set a target of 29 per cent by 2020; we most likely will get there a lot quicker than first envisaged with the waste-to-energy plant???But we still maintain a strong base load using fossil fuels, but gradually, the renewable energy sector will substantially kick in.???

And, he told the High Commissioner that the University of the West Indies (UWI) would have a ???very keen interest??? in her country???s emphasis on agriculture and in particular biotechnology, since that institution was about to establish an agricultural base in St. Thomas.

Recalling Barbados??? long history of sugar cane growing and technologies arising out of sugar cane, the Minister said: ???We used to have a very successful cane breeding station. We have sent varieties all over the world because of our soil types, climate realities and resistance to pests. But as the industry started to wane because of the non-preferential treatment of people in the African Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries that became a thing of the past.??? He, therefore, called on New Zealand to support the industry under its agricultural programme.

The two officials also discussed the role of Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA) and UNESCO Tsunami Early warning system, in disaster risk management; Barbados??? move to have students pay a percentage of their UWI fees and the role of a student revolving loan fund in facilitating persons wanting to study locally or internationally. The latter was examined with respect to lessons learnt from the implementation of New Zealand???s own model.

Barbados and New Zealand established diplomatic ties on July 4, 1974.

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