SPREP is celebrating the 30th anniversary of the signing of the SPREP Treaty


This year, the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP) is celebrating the 30th anniversary of the signing of the SPREP Treaty, which brought about the establishment of the organisation as a separate, autonomous body, tasked with the protection and conservation of the Pacific environment.

The organisation has seen countless technical experts and passionate environmentalists come through its doors during the past 30 years, from the Pacific region and also from around the world, who have contributed through sharing their knowledge and expertise to the building of a resilient Pacific environment in the face of the countless challenges it faces today.

One of these people is Ms. Kate Brown, of Maori heritage (Ngai te Rangi, Morehu) from Tauranga, New Zealand. Kate is currently the Executive Director for the Global Island Partnership and Co-chair for Local 2030 Islands Network.

Kate has more than 20 years of experience in partnerships, collaboration, and engagement in a global island context. She is a passionate advocate for the islands and works to build resilience and sustainable island communities.

She was with SPREP from 2001-2009 as the Action Strategy Adviser and shares with us about her time at the Secretariat in this Q&A:

Q: What is the name of your organization? What is your position, and where are you based now?

A: I am the Executive Director for Global Island Partnership and Co-chair Local 2030 Islands Network.

Q: How long have you worked in this field and what drives you?

A: I have worked in this field since 2000. I’m driven by a love of island people, my kids and a belief that when a group of like-minded people work together transformative change is possible. In Maori, we have a whakatauki that says: He aha te mea nui o te ao? He tangata, he tangata, he tangata – what is the most important thing in the world – It is people, it is people, it is people. We know we have a lot facing us – the twin crises of climate and biodiversity, food security and many more issues and I have been focused on how people can work together for change – through advocacy, policy, highlighting implementation, improving coordination and how we collectively go about our work. My real speciality in this space is networks and partnerships at multiple levels – from local to global – all focused on islands.

Q: What Pacific environmental issue do you work to address?

A: I worked on National Biodiversity Strategies and Action Plans while at SPREP – helping support national efforts on this and supporting islands to advocate for and develop a programme of work on island biodiversity within the Convention on Biodiversity. In the last 12 years I have worked more on sustainable development and climate change and am now the co-chair of the Local2030 Islands Network which is focused on these issues across island economies around the world. This is a network focused on localising implementation of the sustainable development goals.

Q: Having worked with SPREP, what is a key work activity or outcome you are most proud of?

A: The 8th Regional Conference on Nature Conservation and Protected Areas in Alotau, PNG,  because it was a very local conference with nearly all the sessions taking place as breakout groups that is more suited to Pacific storytelling and sharing and which viewed everyone as having something to share.  People still talk about this conference, but it also really tackled the issue of conservation serving communities and came up with a code of conduct for organisations in the region to sign on to as a set of guidelines for how their work serves Pacific communities.

Q: What is your favourite memory of SPREP?

A: The people – wonderful people. Learning to do Cook Island dancing from Nan for a SPREP retreat, all the gym time with the gym rats, our netball, soccer and touch rugby teams, the SPREP bar, SPREP members and just the feeling of working together.

Q: What advice would you give to young people interested in working to protect our environment?

A: The key advice I have is to listen, listen to what people are telling you and what they are not telling you. Everything we do is built upon relationships – you need to build trust – and operate with integrity. Don’t give up – we still need to have hope even amongst all the doom and gloom that can be the environment space.

Q: And finally, as SPREP celebrates its 30-year anniversary would you have any words of encouragement, or any messages for SPREP and her Members?

A: Keep up this amazing work for another 50 years – SPREP works best when it catalyses, forms partnerships and mobilises resources within the guidance of its members. I’m proud to have worked here and contributed my part to the future of the Pacific region.