UN boss flies high for Pacific meetings
THE Secretary-General of the United Nations, and other dignitaries, toured the South-West Pacific with the assistance of Air Force.
António Guterres visited Fiji, Tuvalu and Vanuatu from May 14-18.
His visits included attendance at the Pacific Islands Forum and bilateral talks with regional leaders.
Flown between the islands by 35SQN's 'Wallaby Airlines' C-27J Spartan, he saw firsthand the impacts of climate change on the region.
The SQN's support also allowed the Secretary-General to speak directly with senior government leaders from across the South-West Pacific.
It was a high-profile "no fail" task and FLTLT Luke Georgeson said everything went as planned for the VIP party of 21 passengers.
"We moved the Secretary-General through Fiji, including Nadi and Suva, and then Tuvalu and finally Vanuatu," FLTLT Georgeson said.
"Passengers included the UN Secretary-General, the NZ Deputy Prime Minister, Fiji and NZ High Commissioners for the region, along with media and other staff."
The Spartan proved well-suited for supporting the task, especially as it toured through Tuvalu.
"The airport at Tuvalu had low pavement strength, a small apron, and we needed to deliver a relatively large group," FLTLT Georgeson said.
"This meant the C-27J was the only RAAF aircraft able to adequately service this task."
While in Tuvalu, the crew was able to open the aircraft's ramp in-flight.
With the UN Secretary-General safely attached by a harness, he received a breathtaking view of the Pacific islands.
"His feedback was that it was the 'best experience of my life'," FLTLT Georgeson said.
Mr Guterres said the picturesque view of the South-West Pacific contrasted with the sobering reality faced by many due to rising waters, natural disasters and even climate-related diseases.
Speaking after his visit to Tuvalu, Mr Guterres described it as "an entire country fighting to preserve its very existence", and called climate change "an existential threat".
"Climate change cannot be stopped by the small island countries alone, it has to be stopped by the rest of the world," Mr Guterres said.
"[This requires] transformational policies in energy, mobility, industry and agriculture.
"To save the Pacific is to save the whole planet."