Wellington, March 22 NZPA - New Zealand Aid was told to can its funding for a conference on international development because it did not represent value for money, Foreign Affairs Minister Murray McCully said today.
The conference on the United Nations Millennium Development goals went ahead in Wellington this week funded by the British High Commission and non-government organisations.
Labour's associate foreign affairs spokesman Phil Twyford said the cut to funding was the latest act of a government determined to turn its back on internationally agreed targets on poverty reduction.
A spokesman for Mr McCully said the minister was unrepentant about the move.
Mr McCully was keen on NZ Aid using its money to supply aid and not to talk about giving out aid.
Funding for the conference could be better spent elsewhere.
Mr Twyford said several NZ Aid staff attended the conference but none of them spoke.
"You have to assume either they were silenced by the minister or operating under self-censorship," Mr Twyford said.
Mr McCully's spokesman said the minister had told NZ Aid staff he was relaxed about what role they took at the conference and it was entirely a matter for them.
Government participation was limited to backbench MPs John Hayes and Jackie Blue who attended only the opening ceremony.
"Mr Hayes outlined the Government's plan to spend more aid on promoting business in the Pacific but had almost nothing to say about the poverty elimination targets that were the topic of the conference. He said only that if economic growth generated more wealth the targets would be more achievable," Mr Twyford said.
The Millennium Development Goals are a set of targets which including cutting poverty in half, reducing child deaths and providing universal education.
They have been agreed by 192 nations including New Zealand.
Mr Twyford said the Government seemed determined to ditch NZ Aid's focus on poverty elimination and to disestablish the organisation, folding the aid budget back into the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade.
"Economic growth is important to poverty reduction but on its own it is not enough," he said.
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