10 September 2011

Comparisons between the first Rugby World Cup and arrangements for this year’s event, and the first South Pacific Forum in Wellington, and this week’s meeting, reflect the way the World has changed. Arrangements for the initial World Cup in 1989 at Auckland and the initial Pacific Forum in 1971  (and even the 1982 Forum in Rotorua) were very under-developed from a perspective of this week’s events.

The first World Cup involved 16 countries (with no qualifying rounds) although South Africa and Samoa were not involved. The draw produced 32 matches. Slightly more than 600,000 ticket sales funded the event. This year’s event involved 86 countries in qualifying rounds, which with the 12 qualifying nations from the 2007 Cup mean that 98 countries have been involved. This year’s costs will exceed NZ$310m of which less than NZ$280m will come from ticket sales.

There were seven participant countries in the 1971 Forum. Only Australia and New Zealand had delegations of more than a Minister and 3 officials. There are now 16 member states and an additional 14 dialogue partners (together with Taiwan as a special status partner). The United States as a dialogue partner had a larger delegation attending the Forum this year than the total number of participants in 1971. The increasing attendance has brought substantially more formality. Original proposals were that annual meetings would rotate with the Chairmanship and meetings would reflect the setting of the host government (although Australia and New Zealand have always provided substantial funding and technical assistance to the smaller island states.) And the almost jovial atmosphere of the early Forum meetings, reflected in the floral shirts, has been lost along with the notion of consensus and the “Pacific way”. The party atmosphere of the Funafuti Forum in 1984 (David Lange’s first overseas trip as Prime Minister) which directed the development of the Nuclear Free Zone Treaty, is a thing of the past.