Time capsule holding voices of our Cook Islands youth

13 DECEMBER 2021, RAROTONGA COOK ISLANDS

Over 150 letters holding the dreams and hopes of young Cook Islanders were buried in a time at the launch of Cook Islands National Sustainable Development Agenda 2020+.

The letters from children attending six different schools across the Cook Islands were collected for the time capsule that will be unearthed in 100 years-time in line with achieving our 100-year vision of wellbeing.

14-year-olds Teuraarii Macquarie and Emma Papalii of Nukutere College read their letters at the launch of the Cook Islands National Sustainable Development Agenda 2020+.

“My hopes for the Cook Islands in the next 100 years is to try and stay COVID-free.  I hope that our country can stop always relying solely on our tourism for our economy,” read Ms Teuraarii Macquarie a student at Nukutere College.

“I hope that our island doesn’t sink due to climate change.  I hope that before learning other cultures that we first focus on learning our culture and language.”

The time capsule and the letters commemorate the start of a new journey of the Cook Islands guided by the newly launched Te Ara Akapapa’anga Nui 2020 – 2021, our 100-year vision, Te Ara Akapapa’anga Uki 2021 – 2046, our generational plan and Te Ara Akapapa’anga Iti 2021 – 2026, our five-year scorecard.

Launched by Hon Mark Brown, Prime Minister of the Cook Islands at the special event on 8 December, the letters underscore our next journey as we navigate our future towards this 100-year vision of wellbeing.

“Our future generation have a voice, and we wanted to ensure our youth had a key role in our launch,” said Ms Valery Wichman, Director of the Central Policy and Planning Office of the Office of the Prime Minister.

“The letters shared within the time capsule capture both the hopes and dreams of a future Cook Islands, as well as shares their stories about how they see the world, and the Cook Islands today.  All that we are doing is for a better future for our people for which our young Cook Islanders play a huge role.”

Three schools in Rarotonga and three schools from the Pa Enua contributed letters for the time capsule which is buried at the Office of the Prime Minister.  The plaque was unveiled, and the time capsule was lowered into the ground as part of the special ceremony.

“My hopes and dreams for our nation is for our reo maori culture and tradition grow even stronger in the next 100 years – “no te mea e ngaro atura nei to tatou reo maori e to tatou peu tupuna””, read Ms Emma Papalii, of Nukutere College at the launch event.

“To translate that into English “because our maori language and traditions are fading away.”  People these days need to know that if they want to speak a different language they have to speak te reo, or else the generation after them will ask “mum, what’s may-ta-key?”

The opening ceremony also featured a welcome statement from the Chief of Staff of the Office of the Prime Minister Mr Ben Ponia and Ms Valery Wichman.

The time capsule is placed at the Office of the Prime Minister and will be unearthed in 2121.

To access your digital copies of Te Ara Akapapa’anga Nui 2020 – 2021, our 100-year vision, Te Ara Akapapa’anga Uki 2021 – 2046, our generational plan and Te Ara Akapapa’anga Iti 2021 – 2026, our five-year scorecard please visit www.pmoffice.gov.ck.

For more information please email cppo@cookislands.gov.ck

Media Release – Time capsule holding voices of our Cook Islands youth

The Cook Islands National Sustainable Development Agenda 2020+ launched!

10 DECEMBER 2021, RAROTONGA COOK ISLANDS

The Cook Islands has committed its journey of 100-years towards wellbeing with the launch of the Cook Islands National Sustainable Development Agenda 2020+ (CINSDA2020+).

Making history, the island nation is embarking on this journey together, guided by its national blueprint.  The CINSDA2020+ consists of Te Ara Akapapa’anga Nui 2020 – 2021, our 100-year vision, Te Ara Akapapa’anga Uki 2021 – 2046, our generational plan and Te Ara Akapa’anga Iti 2021 – 2026, our five-year scorecard.  Each one will help us navigate through different charted points, making sure we stay on course as we journey towards wellbeing.

“As a government we will work together across our different Ministries and Departments so that our paths will all converge on this single journey towards wellbeing, adjusting accordingly so our Cook Islands NSDA2020+ is the compass,” said Hon Mark Brown, Prime Minister of the Cook Islands.

“Let us unite as a nation on this same journey together, every person that is a stakeholder in the Cook Islands and is invested in the wellbeing of our nation, join us.  Know our national blueprint, become familiar with these documents and see how you can mainstream this in your work area as well.”

Development of the CINSDA2020+ is the result of rigorous consultations and review that was conducted over a two-and-a-half-year period.  This included over 90 consultations that took place with a wide range of stakeholders from throughout the Cook Islands and beyond. 

Visits took place throughout the Pa Enua, a public forum was also held on Rarotonga and calls for input were also made through national media and social media.  The draft reports were then made available to the public for comment over a one-month period.  All feedback was reviewed by Te Vairanga Kite Pakari the Cook Islands Research Association to ensure everything was on track.

“In a time of so much uncertainty, our resilience as a Cook Islands people has been strongly teste, and I must say that what we have achieved here today is a celebration of both our unity and determination,” presented Mr Ben Ponia, Chief of Staff of the Office of the Prime Minister in his welcome statement.

“We must note that while all the hard work has been done to bring us to this stage here, much more of the heavy lifting will be undertaken by us all as one people over the next 100 years.  It’s a journey that we look forward to taking with you all.”

The 100-year vision of wellbeing Te Ara Akapapa’anga Nui National Sustainable Development Agenda (NSDA) 2020+ which is our 2021-to-2121, hundred-year legacy.  Guidance to achieve this will be mapped out in 25-year generational frameworks, this is Te Ara Akapapa’anga Uki 2021 – 2046.  Within these 25-year generational frameworks are five-year scorecards that will have targets and indicators to reach.  All of which will help steer the Cook Islands to achieve wellbeing.

This vision of wellbeing will be measured against the three areas that were defined – these were identified during the consultations across the Cook Islands.  Wellbeing was defined as being comfortable, being healthy and being happy.

Comfort spans having an educated and knowledgeable people, having a home, being debt free, having a liveable income, being secure at retirement and having safe communities to live in.  Healthy covers both psychological wellbeing and physical wellbeing, and happy includes having a pristine environment, vibrant living languages and culture, our spirituality and good work life balance.

“We undertook extensive consultations to make sure your voice was both heard and included in the Cook Islands National Sustainable Development Agenda 2020+,” said Ms Valery Wichman, Director of Central Policy and Planning Office and Office of the Prime Minister.

“We now look forward to working with you all on the next stages as we implement our new national blueprint bringing us all together on this same journey towards wellbeing.”

You can access your copies of Te Ara Akapapa’anga Nui 2020 – 2021, our 100-year vision, Te Ara Akapapa’anga Uki 2021 – 2046, our generational plan and Te Ara Akapa’anga Iti 2021 – 2026, our five-year scorecard at www.pmoffice.gov.ck

The launch of the Cook Islands National Sustainable Development Agenda 2020+ took place at the Office of the Prime Minister on 8 December, 2021.

For further information please contact cppo@cookislands.gov.ck

Media Release – CI NSDA2020+ launched

Launching our Cook Islands journey to Turanga Memeitaki (wellbeing)

07 DECEMBER 2021, RAROTONGA COOK ISLANDS

Cook Islands history is to be made on 8 December with the launch of the new national blueprint that will guide our nation on its journey towards wellbeing.

Over a year of consultations has helped develop the Te Ara Akapapa’anga Nui-Cook Islands National Sustainable Development Agenda 2020+ resulting in three documents that were approved by Cabinet on the 23rd of November 2021.

Te Ara Akapapa’anga Nui 2021 – 2121, Our 100 Year Vision; Te Ara Akapapa’anga Uki, Our Generational Plan; and Te Ara Akapapa’anga Iti 2021 – 2026 our scorecard will be launched on 8 December at 10am at the Office of the Prime Minister for which an open invite is extended to all to attend.

“This monumental event is a celebration for all of us as we commemorate the hard work from everyone.  Despite the challenges we faced with COVID-19 restrictions, everyone came together to contribute to our new map that will underpin our future direction,” said Ms. Valentino Wichman, Director of the Central Policy and Planning Office of the Office of the Prime Minister.

“Together we have created our new national blueprint that will guide our work and our efforts to ensure our wellbeing as Cook Islanders.  We are excited for our new journey ahead.”

Leading coordination of the NSDA2020+, Ms Wichman and her team worked with a committee made up of different stakeholders from across the Cook Islands Government, Non-Governmental Organisation, and Private Sector along with other stakeholders to facilitate development.

Over 90 consultations were undertaken across Rarotonga, Aitutaki, Atiu, Mauke, Mangaia, Mitiaro, Pukapuka and Tongareva, as well as open calls for thoughts and suggestions through national media, social media and the Office of the Prime Minister website.  There was also a public forum on Rarotonga that sought the views from the public on targeted issues.

All consultation outcomes were then reviewed by the NSDA 2020+ Committee for the research context, check other mitigating factors and provide further information before providing feedback to share Te Ara Akapapa’anga Nui.

The initial drafts developed were also made available publicly for people to submit comments on across a one-month period, these were reviewed by the NSDA2020+ committee before finalising the document and seeking endorsement from cabinet.

This has resulted in a national 100-year vision, a 25-year framework which spans four generations, as well as the five- year strategies upon which monitoring, and evaluation will be facilitated to ensure the Cook Islands remains on track towards wellbeing.

“We know there is much unknown in our future, and while 100, and 25 years are long-term goals with estimated planning based on feedback, we can adjust these as needed.  The transition to long-term planning and thinking is to help build our resilience and lay the groundwork for research and preparation as is needed,” said Ms Wichman.

“We have researched this extensively and found there are many ‘wins’ for those countries that have similar long-term goals.  In this case, all our paths are leading us to the long-term goal of wellbeing in every area possible for our Cook Islands people.”

Everyone is invited to attend the launch that will take place at 10am on 8 December at the Office of the Prime Minister.  This will also be available on Facebook Live using the Office of the Prime Minister of the Cook Islands FB Page.  Speeches will be made from both Government and our future generation of the Cook Islands as well as the burial of a time capsule containing letters from young Cook Islanders.  The time capsule will be opened in 100 years-time.

For further information on the event, or the Cook Islands NSDA2020+ documents please contact the Central Policy and Planning Office of the Office of the Prime Minister at cppo@cookislands.gov.ck

MEDIA RELEASE – Launching of our Cook Islands journey to Turanga Memeitaki

The Cook Islands National Sustainable Development Agenda 2020+ now open for public review.

07 SEPTEMBER 2021, RAROTONGA COOK ISLANDS

Having a say in shaping our Cook Islands future is in your hands with the click of a button over this month.

Since the consultation phase of the Cook Islands National Sustainable Development Agenda 2020+ in July last year, over 80 consultations have taken place in Rarotonga and across the Pa Enua, including a forum in Rarotonga that was open to the public.

This has resulted in three documents that build our Cook Islands National Sustainable Development Agenda 2020+, the blueprint that guides our Cook Islands towards a vision of wellbeing.  The draft versions are now open to the public for comment for a one-month period.

The three documents are the CINSDA 2020+ also known as the 100-year vision called Te Ara Akapapa’anga Nui 2021 – 2121, the Generational Plan-Te Ara Akapapa’anga Uki – 2021 – 2046; and the 5-year scorecard Te Ara Akapapa’anga Iti 2021 – 2026.

“We’re overjoyed to announce that we are at this phase,” said Ms Valentino Wichman, Director of Central Policy and Planning Office of the Office of the Prime Minister.

“We’d like to acknowledge the role that everyone has played in helping bring our national blueprint to the current stage we have.  Thank you to everyone who has come forth to share their thoughts and ideas with us all.”

People are asked to share their comments on the contents of the draft versions.  They will be distributed in pdf format to make it easier to insert comments.  Once the comment date has been closed, all comments received will be submitted to the CISNDA2020+ committee for review and finalising.

The three draft documents will be available in a myriad of ways to ensure as much people as possible can have access to it.  The e-versions will be available for download through OPM website, OPM Facebook and it can be emailed to you upon request.  

If you would like a hard copy these can be available upon request from the Office of the Prime Minister.

“We also have Our Evidence Based Report which is a culmination of the consultation feedback as well as research carried out by OPM in collaboration with Te Vairanga Kite Pakari (TVKP) to help guide the contents within these documents,” said Ms Wichman.

“Everything that we have developed is based upon research and evidence as well as the thoughts and experiences of our Cook Islands people, this Report will also be made available to you also for your reference.  We fully support building our knowledgebase for informed decision making as we move as one nation, towards wellbeing.”

The three documents combined are less than 1MB for downloading purposes, however the Evidence Based Report is 1MB’s.

The three draft documents of the CINSDA2020+ are open for comment until close of business 8th October 2021, Cook Islands time.

Should you wish to access a copy of these documents please visit the Office of the Prime Minister Website via link https://www.pmoffice.gov.ck/nsda/resources/ or the CINSDA2020+ Facebook page, or email cppo@cookislands.gov.ck.

MR – NSDA2020+ open for review

 

Aitutaki input into the Cook Islands National Sustainable Development Agenda 2020+

01 JULY 2021, RAROTONGA COOK ISLANDS

Financial challenges and the need for economic diversification was a strong discussion point raised at a public consultation on the Cook Islands National Sustainable Development Agenda 2020+.

Driving the local economy in Aitutaki to bring Cook Islanders back was a vision raised by several people attending a public meeting for the Cook Islands National Sustainable Development Agenda 2020+, as was driving the local economy to allow for a better income for Cook Islanders.

The need to address the high cost of living and Reo Maori vitality has been a common theme raised during the extensive consultations underway since they began in July 2020.

The Cook Islands National Sustainable Development Agenda 2020+ is our national blueprint that will guide us all towards the 100-year vision of wellbeing.  This will be achieved by 25-year outcomes, these will be monitored and evaluated by 5-year plans to tell us just how well we are doing to achieving the outcomes, and vision.

The CINSDA2020+ follows on from the CINSDP 2016 – 2020 the third iteration of its kind.

“All that was raised in our meeting are challenges and issues that we all want addressed.  We talked about the problems of good work, finances, our people overseas and even our family challenges here. We all want solutions to these problems, and I think we will find them together,” said Mr Teiti Teiti.

“We had really good discussion tonight, now we wait to see these reflected in our national plans.”

Aitutaki brought together over 50 people to discuss ways in which the Cook Islands could achieve a vision of wellbeing.  It is the final of the Pa Enua to participate in the consultations.  The Central Policy and Planning Office of the Office of the Prime Minister (CPPO OPM) has undertaken extensive information with over 65 consultation meetings taken place on Rarotonga. 

Voices of our communities across Pa Enua were also recorded during visits Atiu, Mangaia, Mauke, Mitiaro, Pukapuka and Tongareva as part of national consultations. Over 20 in all were held across the Pa Enua.

All of whom raised the high cost of living and need for better incomes during public consultations.

“There have been common themes raised throughout our consultations – the struggle to pay for bills and the high cost of living was just one.  Others from across the Pa Enua included access to basic amenities such as a safe water supply, telecommunications – internet and cost of living,” said Ms Valentino Wichman, Director of CPPO OPM.

“Gathering all the thoughts and experiences of people from across the Cook Islands has been a valuable activity.  The input will now be shared with our research and drafting team who are reviewing all feedback to build our CINSDA2020+ upon.”

A healthy, caring people and community, positive relationships, the need for financial well-being, and the need for more to speak Cook Islands Maori, options for our Cook Islands youth, and diversification of our economy were just several of the concerns raised from the floor. 

Over 50 people of all ages, gathered to learn more about the CINSDA2020+, sharing their thoughts as to how we can achieve our 100-year goal of well-being under the new national blueprint. 

Also, to take place were consultations on the Cook Islands Population Policy now in the consultation phase of development. 

The Aitutaki public meeting took place at the Ngapu Ariki Hall in Arutanga on 28 June.

For further information please contact Ms Valentino Wichman at valentino.wichman@cookislands.gov.ck

MEDIA RELEASE- NSDA2020+ Aitutaki consultations

Cook Islands NSDA2020+ now in draft stage

09 JUNE 2021, RAROTONGA COOK ISLANDS

Voices from the Pa Enua are resonating into the national blueprint for the Cook Islands our National Sustainable Development Plan 2020+

Having completed consultations in Atiu, Mangaia, Mauke, Mitiaro, Pukapuka and Tongareva, the initial drafting is now in process. The final consultation to gather feedback in general will take place in Aitutaki in late June before the period of consultation that will focus specifically on the draft documents.

The Cook Islands NSDA2020+ will be the guiding document for the nation, steering us all towards a vision of well-being.  There will be three documents developed that unite all sectors and areas for endorsement in August this year. 

The 100-year vision of wellbeing which the Cook Islands will aspire to across the next 100-years, the 25-year frameworks that span a generation will be the overarching document to follow to achieve this, and the 5-year strategy that highlights what must be achieved every five-years with actions being tracked and monitored to highlight progress and areas that need more attention and action.

“We have been working on developing our NSDA2020+ for a year now and are coming very close to completion, having heard the voices of as many people as possible in our consultations,” said Ms Valentino Wichman, Director of Central Policy and Planning of the Office of the Prime Minister.

“We’ve made every attempt to capture the concerns of those we heard, having balanced public thoughts and opinions against research for verification.  We are hopeful that when we seek the input for our draft documents that we hear from as many people as possible.  The final product endorsed will be that upon which our Cook Islands bases decision making, so let’s make sure we contribute to it.”

Areas of concern raised often from those in the Pa Enua included the high cost of living especially transport and freight costs, the isolation and the need to address this with affordable options, as well as the need for basic essentials such as safe water and internet access.

On Rarotonga a wide range of issues were raised, however it was clear that while the need to strengthen our Cook Islands culture was discussed in Rarotonga, this was not of immediate concern in the Pa Enua as they felt that culture was living in their daily lives.

As public consultations were ongoing, a team of researchers was also working to review the feedback provided.

This has resulted in a team of drafters developing initial text and content which will be made available for public consultations and feedback from end of June through to the early July.  It is planned the Cook Islands NSDA1010+ will be endorsed during the first week of August this year.

“We’re really excited to see for this next stage to happen and we thank everyone that has made the time to share their thoughts and input with us, so we have an NSDA2020+ that is owned by all,” said Ms Wichman.

“Our Cook Islands national blueprint is a significant one which will be the basis of all we do as a nation, collectively.  As such everyone will have a role to play in making it happen – we want to make sure that everyone owns it and that we are able to achieve our vision of wellbeing faster than a hundred years.”

While a 100-year vision is established, work toward achieving this will be planned against both 5-year and 25-incremements which allow for progress and changes to be taken into account over the next 100 years.

Should you wish to find out more, or share your thoughts with Ms Valentino Wichman and her team, please contact valentino.wichman@cookislands.gov.ck

MEDIA RELEASE – NSDA2020+ in draft stage 

 

CONGRATULATIONS TO NEXT GOVERNOR-GENERAL OF NEW ZEALAND

23 MAY 2021, RAROTONGA COOK ISLANDS

Prime Minister Mark Brown has joined others in offering congratulations to the next Governor-General of New Zealand, Dame Cindy Kiro.

“On behalf of the government and people of the Cook Islands I offer our congratulations to you and our support.”

“New Zealand governments have a history of making inspired choices for Governor-General and from what I know of Dame Cindy Kiro, this appointment carries on that tradition.”

Dame Cindy has had a career of service to the community in social, public health and academic work, her advocacy for children has been staunch. She is New Zealand Maori with whakapapa links to Ngapuhi, Ngati Hine and Ngati Kahu.

“I am very much looking forward to meeting Dame Cindy and extend to her an invitation to visit our country when she takes up her office. The Cook Islands took great pleasure in welcoming Dame Patsy Reedy and her husband Sir David Gascoigne when they visited just over four years ago and we look forward to welcoming Dame Cindy Kiro when her diary permits.”

Dame Cindy Kiro takes up her appointment in October.

ENDS: Enquiries to Jaewynn McKay, +682 55486

 

Diplomatic Tradecraft Fundamentals Workshop 

14 May 2021, RAROTONGA COOK ISLANDS 

OPM joins the Diplomatic Tradecraft Fundamentals workshop facilitated by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Immigration and the Australian High Commission to the Cook Islands.

Secretary of MFAI Tepaeru Herrmann, told participants that she hopes to strengthen diplomatic capacity of the public workforce in this area to better enhance existing skill sets to progress national interests, and serve the interests of the people of this country.

Herrmann also thanked the Australian High Commission office for their time and investment in co-delivering this workshop.

Charge d’Affaires Peter Lothian added that this is a great opportunity to better work together and that his time here will help strengthen the relationship between our countries at all levels.

OPM joins other agencies from Government for this first part of the training with the final training intended to be held on 21st May.

Public Service Commissioner Carl Hunter was also in attendance and will be presenting to the group next week to encourage all public servants to always better themselves.

The training is held in the VIP Room at the Rarotonga International Airport.

-END-

 

PM Host Soccer Teams

7 MAY 2021, RAROTONGA COOK ISLANDS

The PM hosted the young men and women from the pa enua as well as Rarotonga here for the Kia Orana Youth Football Festival.

Following his official visit from Mitiaro, the PM wanted to host a small reception for those young people who travelled to Rarotonga and to the village teams participating in the tournament.

The PM gave a quick tour of the Cabinet room and a brief on the work that he along with the Ministers do in their respective roles.

A history on the Cabinet table, left the youth interested in the unique table carved by Mike Tavioni.

Looking up at former leaders on the wall, the PM added “when my term is finished as Prime Minister I will be hanging on the wall right there” which was received with alot of laughter and smiles.

The PM went on to say, “it is good to see our youth engaged in sports and I and the Ministers wish all the teams the best in the semi finals and may the best team win”.

Secretary General for Cook Islands Football Association Mii Piri-Savage thanked the Prime Minister for the opportunity for the youth to come and visit him and encouraged “more engagement in the area of sports especially football as many of our youth play soccer and we would like a complex that can facilitate development further in this field. But thank you PM for this opportunity and I know that our teams appreciate this, as do we”.

The youth came dressed in their uniforms as play offs for semis are to be held this afternoon. All the best to all the teams.

END

Cook Islands Football Association

 

CONGRATULATIONS TO NEWEST MEMBER OF PARLIAMENT

6 MAY 2021, RAROTONGA COOK ISLANDS

Prime Minister Mark Brown– Mark Brown – has congratulated the latest member of Parliament – Mrs Akaiti Puna – who overwhelmingly won the Manihiki byelection.

“I am looking forward to Mrs Puna’s participation in our government, especially as she comes from a unique background in having been by her husband’s side in the years he has been Prime Minister and in the Parliament. I expect her contribution to be substantial.

“In addition to that Manihiki has spoken loudly that she, and the government, have the support of a clear majority of the population of the island. This is a ringing endorsement for Akaiti and also for the government. As we emerge from the shadow of COVID and start our recovery as a country, everyone has a part to play – even our most remote islands. We have seen the huge interest shown by our own people to visit our northern group islands with the newly started northern group tours. The sealing of the runway as a first step will improve the opportunities for Manihiki and all of our islands. Akaiti will bring that passion for her island and the experience to push our government priorities on the island of Manihiki” Mr Brown noted.

It’s also noteworthy that Mrs Puna’s election brings another woman into Parliament making seven in total – over a quarter of all MPs.”

ENDS: Enquiries to Jaewynn McKay, +682 55486

 

Column for Cook Islands News

4 May 2021, Rarotonga Cook Islands

Kia Orana,

By now I imagine almost all of you will have heard that our border is set to open for two-way quarantine-free travel with New Zealand from May 16.

Less than two weeks from now, all going according to plan, the first tourists to visit our shores in more than a year will be stepping off the plane at Rarotonga International Airport.

I have no doubt there will be an incredibly warm welcome awaiting them.

As I said on Sunday in my official announcement, the decision to close our borders to the world in March 2020 was a difficult one – but necessary, absolutely necessary. Time has certainly told that our government’s swift action at that crucial point made all the difference.

And while that decision has come at a substantial economic cost to our country and to our people, it also ensured that our country and our people were protected from the COVID-19 pandemic that even now continues to encircle the globe.

As COVID-19 still threatens the health, safety and livelihoods of millions around the world, we here in the Cook Islands remain one of less than a dozen independent nations who have yet to record a single case. Just another reason to count ourselves lucky to be Cook Islanders.

But it was not by luck, by chance or coincidence that we remain COVID-free. How could it be? Instead it was through diligence and hard work that this occurred – and it is diligence and hard work that will set us on the road to economic recovery.

I know that many of us have made sacrifices and worked hard to stay afloat this past year, doing what was necessary to get by in these troubled times, while also doing our best to lift up those around us as well.

Your government has done what it can to support you over this period, but at the end of the day it is you who has done the hard yards, and for your continued trust in your government’s leadership I would like to express my deepest gratitude.

The resilience seen over the past year has been nothing short of extraordinary, and I want to thank you for keeping the faith amidst all the uncertainty. No one could have predicted the far-reaching and ongoing effects of COVID-19 – it has truly been a world-changing event of staggering proportions.

But now, let us look to the future.

I will say this – the hard work is not over.

While the opening of our border with New Zealand will see much-needed tourism dollars flow to every one of our islands, both directly and indirectly through government projects and economic support, we cannot become complacent.

Our continued open border with New Zealand depends on our continued vigilance against the threat of COVID-19. We must continue to be vigilant, to be diligent, and above all to be safe.

Follow the health and safety protocols, maintain good basic hygiene habits, tag in everywhere you go with your CookSafe QR card and make sure you download the new CookSafe+ app. All simple actions that will make a world of difference to all Cook Islanders.

Finally, one last reminder – when it comes to rebuilding the national economy, each and every one of us has a part to play in our recovery journey.

Whether you are a major tourism operator retraining staff and refreshing your facilities in preparation for our imminent new arrivals, a checkout operator in the supermarket or a mama selling nu at the Punanga Nui market, you all represent the face, the voice, the spirit of the Cook Islands – and less than two weeks from today we turn that face towards the world.

Let’s show them that we mean business.

Kia Manuia,

Hon Mark Brown

Prime Minister

 

Island Meeting on Mitiaro 

30th April 2021, Mitiaro Cook Islands

The Prime Minister and his delegation met with the island people of Mitiaro to provide updates on progress with planning and development.

Following the opening of the Mitiaro Hydroponics station this morning, the PM with the Secretary of Agriculture, Commissioner for Seabed Minerals Authority as well as Property Manager representing Cook Islands Investment Corporation presented to the community and received feedback on all these work programmes.

The Seabed Minerals Authority Commissioner Alex Herman including the Chairperson of the Seabed Minerals Authority Working Group Bishop Tutai Pere provided an update on the licensing process for exploration.

The Community then put forward questions ranging from Government policies and plans on renewable energy, support to households, infrastructure projects that they require follow up on.

The Prime Minister responded to these by saying that we are noting all these issues down and that our team will report back to these and or follow up for you all.

– END –

Opening of Mitiaro Agriculture Hydroponics

30 APRIL 2021, MITIARO COOK ISLANDS

The Prime Minister opened the Mitiaro Agriculture Hydroponics station this morning while on his official visit to the island.

Supported by the Adaptation Fund and the Cook Islands Government the 400 plant capacity is to “support food security on the island as well as be a teaching tool for our children” says Secretary of Agriculture Temarama Anguna-Kamana.

The Prime Minister emphasized the importance of this pilot project to build capacity but also encourage healthy eating to our people in the PA enua. “This hydroponics station is also an opportunity to support our peoples livelihood as well as enable our Pa enua like Mitiaro to be able to supply veges to Rarotonga to help the market and bring income back on to the island”.

The PM added that “we need to also encourage households to do the same with this technology and be able to be self sufficient also”.

The PM will be heading to the community meeting where he will hold his Q&A session for an hour with the people of Mitiaro providing updates on development in the country one of which is the Licensing scheme with Seabed Minerals Authority as well as other plans in place for the Cook Islands including Covid 19 national updates.

– END –

VAI NAURI SITE VISIT – MITIARO 

29 APRIL 2021, MITIARO COOK ISLANDS

The Prime Minister poured perfume gracing the waters and his wife Daphne threw a gold coin in the Vai Nauri water cave. All the while the Nukuroa mama’s chant their āmu while the PM as the head of delegation took the first dive followed by his wife and Bishop Tutai Pere.

Then the traveling delegation all took turns to jump in.

The significance of this site visit was to showcase the Mitiaro tradition of ‘rere vai’.

The team then proceeded to the hall for a kaikai and more entertainment from the mamas and the whole island will sit down and enjoy the meal to wrap up the day.

– END –

 

NUKUROA OFFICIAL VISIT

28 APRIL 2021, MITIARO COOK ISLANDS

Welcoming on Nukuroa for the Prime Minister Hon. Mark Brown and his good wife Daphne on his first official visit as Prime Minister. The trip has a busy schedule that includes a tour of Mitiaro Inclusive of the ‘rere vai’ tradition of the island.

The delegation accompanied by officials from Government agencies who have work programmes on island. Supported by all three Ariki of Nukuroa who stood proud in supporting their people.

The trip is made more special with the official opening of the second lawn bowls green in the Cook Islands.

The welcome ceremony included the planting of a tamanu tree to mark this official visit by the Prime Minister and his wife.

The team motorcade then drove to Atai village where the people waited with the pa’ata for the Patai enua for the visit.

Singing and drumming filled the air from the humble crowd gathered. More to come from our team on island.

-End-

 

ANZAC DAY MESSAGE
25 APRIL 2021, RAROTONGA COOK ISLANDS

Kia Orana katoatoa,

It is my privilege to address our nation today as we honour the contributions of all those who have bravely served and sacrificed on battlefields around the world.

Here in the Cook Islands, we have over the past few years become more aware of the almost 500 men from our islands who volunteered to serve with the New Zealand Expeditionary Force’s Maori Pioneer Battalion during World War I – some of whom made the ultimate sacrifice, losing their lives either on the battlefield or later from war-related illness.

It is those men I would like to talk to you about today.

The story of the Cook Islands in the First World War is a remarkable one.

One of the smallest territories in the British Empire, the Cook Islands responded immediately to the call for service and eventually sent five contingents to the war, totalling close to 500 men.

Recruited to reinforce the Maori Contingents, our young men volunteered en masse at the outbreak of the war. Like their Niuean counterparts who also answered the call to service from New Zealand, 80 per cent could not speak English, but were able to communicate loosely with the New Zealand Maori soldiers.

Combined with NZ Maori and Papa’a soldiers of the Pioneer Battalion, our men soon saw heavy action in the Allied attack on Flers at the first battle of the Somme in September 1916. Exposed to enemy fire, they helped construct the famous ‘Turk Lane’ trench that stretched for eight kilometres – from Flers to Delville Wood – and later assisted the tunnellers at Arras.

Despite the unprecedented challenges of the Front and the European winter, the soldiers performed their duties well and were singled out by Major Peter Buck (Te Rangi Hiroa) for their hard work in tough conditions.

The 2nd and 3rd Cook Islands Contingents served in the Middle East as part of the Sinai-Palestine campaign – first in a logistical role for the Australian and New Zealand Mounted Rifles at their Moascar base and later in ammunition supply for the Royal Artillery. Well-organised and disciplined, they again excelled and were noted as especially vigilant sentries.

Their hard work and physicality was also widely admired, with one officer estimating that a single Cook Islands soldier did the work of two to three Europeans. Elsewhere, their speed and prowess in running surf boats from supply ships in Egypt led to threats of strike action by local labourers put out of work.

Importantly for the soldiers, a separate Rarotongan Company was formed in October 1917 and the unit remained an indispensable part of the Royal Artillery in the British XXI Army Corps for the rest of the war.

In the 1st Contingent, three Cook Islanders died from enemy action and at least 10 died of disease as the men struggled to adapt to the extremely different conditions of Europe. More tragedy came after the war as men returned to the influenza outbreak in New Zealand and sought recovery from European diseases. A large number did not survive the return journey and died in New Zealand or on their return home over the coming years. Lance Corporal Robert (Bob) Ngapo of Tautu, Aitutaki, died in Auckland of pneumonia, while Private Tuakana Atama Akeau of Manihiki died of tuberculosis back home in 1924.

It is not known how many Rarotongan lives were lost overall. During a New Zealand Parliamentary questioning on the Rarotongan and Niuean loss of life during the war, Sir Maui Pomare reported that “they must have lost upwards of 150”. There were no further details given and no further questioning.

Despite their war efforts being largely forgotten by New Zealand for many years, and a lack of true death figures as a result of war-related illness, the Rarotongan participation in the war was proof that we as Cook Islanders could forge an independent identity abroad.

With reference to World War One, I would also like to acknowledge today the contributions of our fellow Pacific Islanders who likewise heeded the call to serve alongside New Zealand and Australia in the Great War – those from Niue, Tahiti, Tonga, Tuvalu, Fiji, Samoa, Kiribati and Norfolk Island.

Side by side we stood together all those years ago. It is a bond which has endured through time and is part of the foundation upon which our nations and people continue to flourish.

Auraka rava ratou kia akangaropoina ia – we will never forget them.

ENDS

Enquiries to Jaewynn McKay

+682 55486

 

Prime Minister Pays Tribute to His Royal Highness, The Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh

16 APRIL 2021, RAROTONGA COOK ISLANDS

E tumu rakau nui kua inga.

E tumu rakau ruperupe no te Basileia kua inga.

E tumu rakau marumaru kua inga, e tiare kua puera I te Popongi, kareka kia aiai, kua mae e kua ngaro ua.

We have come here to today commemorate and celebrate the life of one of the greatest humans of our time – His Royal Highness The Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, the husband of Queen Elizabeth II – our Queen.

Prince Philip died a week ago, just weeks short of his 100th birthday.

He and Queen Elizabeth were married for nearly 74 years, and in his remarkable life, Prince Philip had a ringside seat to most of the major events of the 20th and 21st centuries.

Although he was born into royalty, Prince Philip did not have an easy upbringing. He was born on the Greek island of Corfu, he was a Prince in both the Greek and Danish royal families. His uncle was the King of Greece, and he could have been King one day too.

But after a disastrous war between Greece and Turkey in the 1920s, his family was exiled from Greece and they fled to Paris where they lived with relatives, he was just 18 months old.

By the time he was 9, Prince Philip’s family life had deteriorated to the extent that his mother had had a nervous breakdown and his father had abandoned the family to live in the south of France. Young Philip spent the next few years either living with uncles and aunts scattered across Europe, or at boarding schools in Britain and Germany.

In later life when asked, “What language did you speak at home?” He answered, “What do you mean, ‘at home’?”

His solitary upbringing probably led to the stoic approach he took to life. He never saw or heard from his parents for years; his four older sisters all went off and married Germans. When asked about those turbulent years he said, “It’s simply what happened. The family broke up. I just had to get on with it. You do. One does.”

His final school was Gordonstoun in Scotland. It was run by a German taskmaster who believed in toughening the boys up with extensive activities in the outdoors. It’s where he later sent all his sons, which marked a change to royal traditions, and it probably was the genesis of the Duke of Edinburgh Awards which he established and has over 2 and a half million graduates in Britain and an estimated 8 million worldwide.

It’s believed the young Greek Prince and the English Princess first crossed paths at a royal wedding in 1934, but their first formal meeting was in 1939 when she was 13 and he was 18. By then he’d left school and was a cadet in the Royal Navy.

The relationship clearly blossomed. He served with distinction in the navy during World War Two and they were engaged early in 1947, and married in November that year.

For the next five years they lived an almost normal family life and often looked back on that time as an idyllic period in their lives. He was a naval officer stationed in Malta, and she was a naval officer’s wife able to move around freely doing normal things like going to the hairdressers. Prince Charles and Princess Anne were born during that time.

But in 1952 that all came to an end. While Philip and Elizabeth were on a tour of Africa and were actually in a tourist tree house called Tree Tops, word came through that her father King George had died. Later the media coined the phrase, ‘She entered the trees as a Princess and came down a Queen’.

Life as Queen and husband or consort of the Queen, was very challenging for them both; maybe more so for Philip. He found it hard to accept some of the requirements put on him by his wife being Queen, for example the requirement that his children not bear his surname Mountbatten but instead were Windsors.

But as history now shows he swallowed those difficulties and supported his wife, and our Queen for the nearly three-quarters of a century they were married. There was no more loyal royal. He kept up his royal duties, which included tens of thousands of visits and appearances until he finally retired at the age of 95.

He was the patron/president or chair of nearly 800 organisations. He was a master of one-liners, many of which were often a bit salty and some of which got him into trouble. But he was his own man, while still being loyal and supportive of the Queen.

In doing so he proved wrong senior palace staff who, prior to his marriage to Princess Elizabeth, counselled her father King George against allowing the marriage; saying the dashing young sailor prince was ’too rough, uneducated and probably unfaithful’, but the King clearly didn’t listen, and the Princess didn’t agree.

In fact the Duke of Edinburgh was an avid reader. His personal library contained more than 11-thousand books. He disliked fuss and that , according to media reports I have seen will likely be reflected in the simplicity of his funeral service that will take place early tomorrow morning our time. He had a hand in the arrangements, amongst other things designing and modifying the landrover that will be used to carry his coffin, and insisting he didn’t want a ‘state’ funeral.

His naval career came to an end once his wife became Queen, but senior naval officials say he was a very professional military sailor and had the capacity to rise to the very top of the naval establishment – to be Admiral of the Fleet.

Prince Philip visited the Cook Islands in 1971 travelling on the Royal Yacht Britannia. He was accompanied by his uncle the late Lord Louis Mountbatten, 1st Earl of Mountbatten of Burma and his uncle’s eldest daughter Patricia, Lady Braboune and her husband.

The Prince’s visit to the southern group island of Palmerston left an indelible mark, affirming the strong links of all Palmerston islanders to the Crown through the British heritage of their forefather the late William Masters. That short visit, was a momentous occasion, and even today more than 50 years later, the 28 February, the anniversary of the Prince’s visit is celebrated by the island coming together to dine as one big family.

On Rarotonga, Prince Philip was met by large, adoring crowds with multiple engagements carried out through the day. By all accounts it was an exhilarating, demanding and nonstop occasion with a wonderful interaction between the Royal’s and locals. Our Police service rose to the occasion in trying to be respectful and polite to the public while at the same time protecting the Royals.

Now, there are many stories told when it comes to “Royal protocol” and “rules” that must be followed during official events and Royal Tours. But during Tours it is up to each monarchy to carve their own path on the day; respecting tradition but at the same time following their own instincts.

During his visit Prince Philip showed his understanding and respect for our customs.

Mr Bill Johnson, government official photographer, fondly recalls one of those moments captured in the photograph behind me:

“Prince Philip was at Taputapuatea Palace Grounds when Madame Macquarie welcomed The Prince and she said, “would you mind if I greeted you island style’? Prince Philip gave her a blank look, and just nodded his head, and with that Madame kissed him on the cheek”.

Prince Philip just started smiling from ear to ear, and that smile was captured in photo taken right afterwards!

Although he lived on the other side of the world, all of us here in our little paradise knew who Prince Philip was and clearly we are here paying our respects and showing our condolences to our Queen, the Royal Family, the British people and the people of the wider Commonwealth.

Miimii ake….. Miimii ake

Koai ra taku e miimii nei

Ko taku Tama Ariki

Tei Rangorango ia tatou

Ki raro ake I tona A’u

Ieeekoko…….

[ENDS]

 

AITUTAKI ELECTRICITY DISCOUNT

14 APRIL 2021, RAROTONGA COOK ISLANDS

Prime Minister Mark Brown has announced details of the continuing support being offered to Aitutaki businesses and households by electricity provider Te Mana Uira O Araura today.

Under Phase 3 of the Cook Islands National Economic Response Plan, all Aitutaki businesses that currently receive or are eligible to receive government support will continue to receive a 60 per cent discount on their electricity costs with Te Mana Uira O Araura, consistent with what businesses received from January 2021 to March 2021.

Households will receive up to a $25 discount off their electricity costs each month, for meter readings in April 2021 through to June 2021 inclusive. This is a reduction from the up to $50 credit they received each month from January 2021 to March 2021.

“The Phase 1, 2 and 3 discounts offered by Te Mana Uira o Araura are substantial for Aitutaki, where COVID-19 and the closure of the nation’s borders has had a significant impact on the economy and Aitutaki’s tourism sector in particular,” said Prime Minister Brown.

“Over a 12-month period, more than $1 million of savings is being granted to Aitutaki households and businesses by Te Mana Uira o Araura across phases 1 to 3, a truly remarkable contribution to keep the Aitutaki economy running and provide much-needed support to households.”

Acknowledging that support, Te Mana Uira O Araura chair John Baxter said the organisation was “fortunate to have received some funding from the government and CIIC to enable us to continue discounts for Aitutaki households and businesses during these challenging times”.

“I would like to extend our special thanks again to the Prime Minister, the Honourable Mark Brown, on behalf of Te Mana Uira O Araura and its Aitutaki consumers, for our government’s assistance.”

Adding to that, Cook Islands Investment Corporation chair Michael Henry said that “Te Mana Uira O Araura’s continued assistance, similar to Te Aponga Uira’s announcement recently, is an example of a concerted effort from our government, the Cook Islands Investment Corporation and its State-Owned Enterprises to support the nation and in this case Aitutaki during these unprecedented times”.

It should also be noted by the people of Aitutaki that further information on the electricity discounts will be released to Aitutaki households and businesses in the near future, although people should feel free to call the Te Mana Uira O Araura office if required.

ENDS

 

Prime Minister Announces Extension to Economic Response Plan 

9 APRIL 2021, RAROTONGA COOK ISLANDS

The Prime Minister – the Hon. Mark Brown – has announced that the economic package to help businesses and sole traders to continue operating, will be extended for a further three months.

The ERP – Economic Response Plan Phase 3 – was due to end in March, but will now continue through to the end of June.

Prime Minister Brown says the government decided to extend the package, which is designed to allow businesses to keep their employees on the payroll, and allow the companies and sole traders to stay afloat in the current difficult circumstances.

The package includes the following:

  • Wage Subsidy

The Wage Subsidy will continue to be available for eligible businesses until 30 June 2021. This will give businesses and their staff much needed wage support even after visitors start arriving on our shores.

  • Sole Trader Grants

A further Sole Trader Grant of $3,000 will be available to those who have previously received support and those new Sole Traders who have yet to register with RMD. Registration for new Sole Traders closes on 16 April 2021. The new round of grants will be available for applications until the end of May.

  • Unemployment Benefit and Unemployment Benefit Extension

The unemployment benefit was extended in ERP Phase II and is still available until June 2021.

  • Emergency Hardship Fund

The emergency hardship fund was extended in ERP Phase II and is still available until June 2021.

“We know that businesses will still need support as we gradually pick up business when we do commence QFT with New Zealand. This extension of the ERP will enable our businesses and people, to hold on and prepare for that to happen. And even if our visitor flow should restart earlier than the end of June – which by the way I expect it to – the ERP will continue, and will assist businesses to settle back into a more normal trading pattern.”

“We know that many resorts and accommodation businesses are gearing up for New Zealanders wanting a break in our tropical paradise.

“At the same time we in the government are continuing to exercise caution. We are COVID free and we want to stay that way.

Therefore we will continue to take every action that will keep our people safe, and help us remain so.”

ENDS: Enquiries to Jaewynn McKay, +682 55486

 

Prime Minister Pays Tribute to His Royal Highness, The Prince Philip, The Duke of Edinburgh

9 APRIL 2021, RAROTONGA COOK ISLANDS

“On behalf of the Cook Islands government and people I join other Commonwealth and world leaders in offering condolences to Her Majesty The Queen, the Royal Family and the people of the United Kingdom on the passing of their much-loved Duke of Edinburgh.

“A remarkable man who led an extraordinary life of service and duty that lasted almost a century. A life dedicated to public service to his country, The Crown and beyond until his retirement four years ago at 95 years of age at which time he was the president or patron of more than 780 different organisations.

“A life dedicated to supporting his wife, The Queen through their marriage of over 73 years. A life that has seen so much change. A life through which he chose to be at the forefront of many initiatives, including those to do with the environment for which he had a lifelong passion. His commitment to youth was firmly entrenched when he established the Duke of Edinburgh’s Awards Scheme in 1956. Those of us who have attended secondary schools in New Zealand may well remember this programme, that aims to give students a lift and sense of achievement based on physical activity, skills, and development opportunities. A life which has left a wonderful legacy.

“Whilst the Queen and Prince Philip visited Rarotonga in January 1974, when the Queen officially opened our International Airport, that was not Prince Philip’s first visit here. His first visit was in early 1971 when accompanied by his Uncle Lord Louis Mountbatten and other family members they arrived aboard Her Majesty’s Yacht Britannia. The official Cook Islands Government photographer at the time, Bill Johnson was able to capture the essence of that visit so well.”

“Our thoughts are with the Queen and her family, who on the occasion of their golden wedding anniversary said it best when she said of her husband and the longest-serving consort in British history “we owe him a debt greater than he will ever claim or we will ever know.”

“As a sign of respect and to mark the death of His Royal Highness, I have asked for the Cook Islands flag on all Government and public buildings to be flown at half-mast.”

ENDS: Enquiries to Jaewynn McKay, +682 55486

 

Building our Cook Islands legacy with our Pa Enua

30 MARCH 2021, RAROTONGA COOK ISLANDS

The valuable input of our local communities on Atiu, Mauke and Mitiaro are being interwoven into the Cook Islands National Sustainable Development Agenda 2020+. 

Our wellbeing, raising of the old age pension, the growing cost of living, affordable and reliable internet as well as the need for vocational training were some of the issues raised by people in Nga-pu-toru during public meetings held on the islands this month.

The development of the CINSDA 2020+ is led by the Central Policy and Planning Office of the Office of the Prime Minister (CPPO – OPM).  It will continue on the legacy of the Cook Islands National Sustainable Development Agenda 2016 – 2020.

As part of its development, over 70 consultations with a wide range of groups have been undertaken across Rarotonga, as well as Atiu, Mangaia, Mauke and Mitiaro.

“It is important to have our own voice here in Mauke for this national planning process,” said Mr Barney Dyer of Mauke who participated in the consultations.

“Several of our concerns included a need to find opportunities to keep our people here on Mauke, in country and to look after the well-being of our people”.

The CINSDA 2020+ will be the national blueprint to guide our 100-year vision of wellbeing.  This will be achieved by 25-year outcomes – generational frameworks, these will be monitored and evaluated by 5-year plans to tell us just how well we are doing to achieving the outcomes, and vision.

It is envisioned the NSDA2020+ will be presented to cabinet for approval before the end of this financial year.

Consultations in Nga-pu-toru were held from 23 – 25 March 2021 with a public consultation meeting held on each island, bringing over 60 people together at each meeting.  The consultations in Mangaia took place in February 2021.

“With each consultation we have held, we have found the issues and key concerns are diverse – the feedback from our Pa Enua no different.  Each consultation we had recently on each island have raised different points for consideration,” said Ms Valentino Wichman, Director of CPPO-OPM.

“Across Nga-pu-toru the issues discussed were relevant to their circumstances, yet one which we found was consistent across all Pa Enua consultations is that of the high cost of living and the need for economic opportunities.  We are hopeful the CINSDA2020+ will address this, especially given all work we do will guide us all towards a nation of wellbeing.”

In Mauke the public consultations recorded the need for the right mindset, and to address access to safe water as well as the high cost of living.  In Mitiaro several of the key points discussed by the community included the need for affordable, fast and reliable internet as well as our traditional leadership structures and the importance of our people leading everything we do. There was also a strong emphasis on our environment and our connection to it.

“We need to also share what we know and learned in the Pa Enua over the years.  We can contribute to the development of our nation,” said Ms Cindy Knowles who attended the consultations in Mitiaro.

“Our environment and our wellbeing are very important to us all.”

In Atiu the public meeting highlighted the need for us to understand our past in order to know where we are heading as well as succession planning and being prepared for threats and technology going into the future.

“Te ora’anga o te matakeinanga kia vai, kia utuutu’ia” – Nani Tutaka-Tatuava

The CINSDA2020+ consultations in Nga-pu-toru were led by Ms Wichman and Ms Charlene Hoff of CPPO.  Also, part of the delegation was Mr Mia Teaurima for island governance review of legislation, Mr Maara Tetava Ariki for National security consultations, Mr Tangata Vainerere who is assisting development of the National Population policy and Ms Maria Tuoro providing communications support.

Plans are in process to undertake consultations in Aitutaki and Te Pae Tokerau.

For further information on the CINSDA2020+ please contact cppo@cookislands.gov.ck.

CINSDA2020Plus_MR_300321

 

CookSafe+ Ready for Launch

23 MARCH 2021, RAROTONGA COOK ISLANDS

The Cook Islands takes another step closer to a two-way quarantine-free travel bubble with New Zealand this week thanks to the anticipated rollout of our new contact tracing app CookSafe+, says Cook Islands Prime Minister Mark Brown.

“The CookSafe+ app is an essential step on our path to safe and streamlined two-way quarantine-free travel with New Zealand,” said Prime Minister Brown.

“Along with our soon to open PCR lab, improved contact tracing was one of the main areas of priority in ensuring our health readiness prior to quarantine-free travel. We know our best form of contract tracing amongst our local communities is our local resident communities themselves together with the team at Te Marae Ora (TMO) and the puna. The contact tracing team of 6 were able to contact all 300+passengers off the most recent 2 flights of interest within 24 hours.”

“CookSafe+ helps us enhance our contract tracing goal and its compatibility with the NZ COVID Tracer app is of vital importance to the opening of a travel bubble between our two countries.”

Developed in conjunction with Rush Digital RUSH, the same software design and technology provider used by New Zealand’s Ministry of Health to build their NZ COVID Tracer app, CookSafe+ utilises Bluetooth technology to help make travel between our two countries safer and easier.

The app has now been completed and will be available for download from the Google Play Store and Apple App Store very soon.

CookSafe+ will work alongside our current CookSafe card system by allowing your smartphone to trigger an alert notification should you come into close contact with another app user who tests positive for COVID-19.

Once you have downloaded the app and turned CookSafe+ Bluetooth tracing on, it works by sending out a private and secure random ID code.

This code lets your phone record how close another CookSafe+ app user is to you and for how long.

If someone tests positive for COVID-19, they can send an anonymous notification containing all the random IDs their phone has sent out over the past 14 days. If your phone recognises any of these IDs, and you were close enough for long enough to be at risk of exposure, you will receive an alert. This alert will advise you on what to do to keep yourself and your family safe.

Like those used by the NZ COVID Tracer app, the Bluetooth ID codes sent out by the CookSafe+ app are randomised and secure. Data is only shared if a user who tests positive is asked to share it by a contact tracing team member and even then the user still remains anonymous.

While CookSafe+ keeps track of the people you have been near, it does not keep track of where you’ve been, which is why we need to keep using our CookSafe cards and keep in the habit of tagging in at different locations as part of our daily routine.

In anticipation of the two-way travel bubble between the Cook Islands and New Zealand, a major benefit of CookSafe+ is its interoperability with the NZ COVID Tracer app.

This aspect of interoperability between our two countries’ apps is a first for the southern hemisphere and this is only the second time such a system has been set up anywhere in the world.

Users running the CookSafe+ app can automatically share Bluetooth ID codes with users running the NZ COVID Tracer app without any extra modifications, so people travelling to the Cook Islands will not need to download anything new. The same is true for Cook Islanders travelling to New Zealand.

This will make travelling between our two countries much safer and easier, allowing the opening of a two-way travel bubble which will bring a much-needed economic boost to the Cook Islands.

ENDS: Any enquiries to Press Secretary, Jaewynn McKay +682 55486

 

Inaugural State Visit to New Zealand for Prime Minister

23 MARCH 2021, RAROTONGA COOK ISLANDS

Tomorrow Prime Minister Brown will visit New Zealand for the first time since becoming Prime Minister in September 2020.

“This is my first international mission as Prime Minister and it is fitting that it is to New Zealand, our most significant partner” said the Prime Minister earlier this month upon confirmation of the visit.

The Prime Minister will be formally welcomed by Hon Aupito, Tofae Su’a William Sio, Minister for Pacific Peoples tomorrow before attend a Cook Islands Community Leaders event in Mangere.

On Friday (NZT) the Prime Minister will be welcomed to the Auckland War Memorial Museum prior to his meeting with New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern.

On Saturday, the Prime Minister will attend the Dedication of the Pacific Islands Memorial Te Reo Hotunui o Te Moana Nui a Kiwa at Pukeahu National War Memorial Park in Wellington. This will be followed on Sunday with his attendance at a combined Cook Islands Community Church Service at the Ekalesia Kerititiano Kuki Airani (EKKA) in Porirua.

On Monday and Tuesday, the Prime Minister and his delegation will meet with New Zealand’s Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Hon Grant Robertson; Minister of Foreign Affairs Hon Nanaia Mahuta; Minister for COVID-19 Response Hon Chris Hipkins; Minister of Police Hon Poto Williams; Minister for Pacific Peoples Hon Aupito, Tofae Su’a William Sio; the Assistant Governor of the Reserve Bank Christian Hawkesby and members of the Maori Caucus.

In addition to these meetings the Prime Minister will also be holding meetings with various bilateral partners of the Cook Islands and will attend a reception hosted by Cook Islands High Commissioner Her Excellency Elizabeth Wright-Koteka.

Back in Auckland on Wednesday 31 March, Prime Minister Brown will visit Pacific Homecare and meet with Air New Zealand Chief Executive Greg Foran; the Leader of the National Party Hon Judith Collins and attend a reception hosted by Hon Nanaia Mahuta which will conclude the formal programme.

Travelling with the Prime Minister will be Mrs Daphne Brown and senior government officials – Tepaeru Herrmann Secretary of Foreign Affairs and Immigration and Garth Henderson Secretary of Finance and Economic Management.

The delegation arrives back in Rarotonga on Good Friday, 2nd April.

ENDS: Any enquiries to Press Secretary, Jaewynn McKay +682 55486

 

CASE DISMISSED

19 MARCH 2021, RAROTONGA COOK ISLANDS

Prime Minister Mark Brown has welcomed the dismissal of the charges involving fraud brought against him and former Prime Minister Henry Puna.

The Chief Justice, Sir Hugh Williams QC dismissed the case on Friday afternoon.

“An attempt to persue this case in 2019 by a private citizen was withdrawn last year, after advice from a New Zealand lawyer that it was unlikely to succeed. Six months later the charges were re-laid by Paul Allsworth. On both occasions the Police and Crown Law Office found no merit in the complaints, so I always felt that this would be the likely outcome. I can now get back to my duties running the country and hope that this decision puts an end to this smear campaign”.

ENDS: Any enquiries to Press Secretary, Jaewynn McKay +682 55486

 

Acknowledging World Down Syndrome Day

19 MARCH 2021, RAROTONGA COOK ISLANDS

“Along with the rest of the world this weekend we are thinking about our children who were born with Down Syndrome, my understanding is that we have seven down syndrome children in the Cook Islands, including my grand niece Tuira” said Prime Minister Mark Brown who is also Patron of the Cook Islands Down Syndrome Association (CIDSA).

“I’m incredibly proud of the work this association (CIDSA) has done since they were formally established in November last year. Raising awareness of down syndrome helps to break down the stigma around these special people and shows that people with Down Syndrome are more like you and me, than they are different.

“This morning, I was delighted to see people “rocking their socks”, acknowledging World Down Syndrome Day and doing their bit to help fundraise for specialised custom-made footwear for our 7 down syndrome children. But the fun doesn’t end there, tomorrow morning at Punanga Nui market we will all have the opportunity to learn more about down syndrome, perhaps purchase a T-shirt and to make a donation towards the order for specialised footwear for our 7 children.

The date for World Down Syndrome Day is actually this Sunday (21st March), the 21st day of the 3rd month, which was selected to signify the uniqueness of the triplication (trisomy) of the 21st chromosome which causes Down syndrome.

“The mission of our local down syndrome association is to work alongside families and carers to support and empower our down syndrome people. Helping them realise their potential and aspiration through all the stages of their life and within our community is something we all should be a part of. I send my best wishes to our seven down syndrome children and their families and acknowledge the important work of the CIDSA. Kia manuia,” the Prime Minister concluded.

“And if you can’t make it to the markets tomorrow, perhaps you’ll be watching the Takuvaine under 8 netball team, if so give some extra load cheers to them and in particular Tuira. I’ll probably be accused of being a bit biased, but I think she’s a star player”.

Ends: Any enquiries to Press Secretary, Jaewynn McKay +682 55486

 

PRIME MINISTER TO VISIT NEW ZEALAND

14 MARCH 2021, RAROTONGA COOK ISLANDS

Prime Minister Brown today welcomed confirmation of his first official visit to Aotearoa-New Zealand which will take place between 25th March and 2nd April.

“This is my first international mission as Prime Minister and it is fitting that it is to New Zealand, our most significant partner.

“I look forward to meeting with Prime Minister Ardern and with her Government to progress active discussions of interest to both of us including the safe resumption of two-way quarantine free travel between our countries.

“I also look forward to joining Prime Minister Ardern for the unveiling of Te Reo Hotunui o te Moana nui a Kiwa – the Pacific Islands Memorial at Pukeahu National War Memorial Park on 27 March. This memorial represents New Zealand’s enduring friendship with the Pacific and the service of our people who fought for New Zealand in both World Wars and later conflicts.”

Arrangements for the mission are still being finalised via the respective Ministries of Foreign Affairs.

ENDS

Enquiries to Jaewynn McKay +682 55486.

 

PM BROWN ARRIVES ON RAKAHANGA

11 MARCH 2021, RAROTONGA COOK ISLANDS

The Prime Minister and his delegation arrived on to Rakahanga to a beautiful welcome from the island.

The delegation was met by the Mayor, councilors and school children who gifted each delegate a pare rito and eis of tipani and tiare maori.

The Rakahanga Boys Brigade company brass band played the national anthem before taking the delegation from the wharf to the administration centre for a short presentation and reception.

Like Manihiki, Rakahanga will also be consulted on Covid-19 updates that include Quarantine Free Travel as well as Vaccination information provided by Te Marae Ora.

This will then be followed by the progress updates from Seabed Minerals Authority on the licensing process that is currently in progress now.

The Prime Minister Mark Brown and Deputy Prime Minister Robert Tapaiatau and Seabed Minerals Commissioner Alex Herman will deliver the presentations tonight.

END

 

PM delegation to depart for Rakahanga

10 MARCH 2021, RAROTONGA COOK ISLANDS

The Prime Ministers delegation will depart Manihiki for Rakahanga today at 1.00pm. The delegation includes the Member of Parliament and Leader of the Opposing Hon. Tina Browne.

The team are expected to hold consultations this evening with the island of Rakahanga to end the formal visit to Manihiki and Rakahanga.

Consultations will also be on the Covid-19 updates and progress including the updates on the Licensing process from Seabed Minerals Authority.

The Rakahanga ferry will take the team across today. Weather is fair and the trip should take less than two hours.

The Prime Minister, adds “we are looking forward to meeting our people from Rakahanga and spending time with them to provide them with the updates that we have given all our other Islands. It is great that we will have the Leader of the Opposition and Member of Parliament Hon Tina Browne along as we need to show a united front on these important issues”.

More updates to follow.

 

Column for Cook Islands News

9 MARCH 2021, RAROTONGA COOK ISLANDS

Kia Orana,

You will have seen in recent days in the news that New Zealand has ordered 10-million doses of the Pfizer vaccine that combats COVID-19. That’s enough to vaccinate all New Zealanders. It’s good news for them and it’s also very good news for us too; because, as well as providing two jabs for each of the team of 5-million who want the vaccine, New Zealand will be providing vaccine cover for us here in the Cook Islands too.

That’s a huge contribution from New Zealand not just from a health point of view for our people, but with immunisation we and our economy have a big chance to start to get back to some form of normality. So we’re very grateful for that.

The Pfizer vaccine is one of the top four in the world. It has been trialed, thoroughly tested, and reviewed by countries like America, Britain, Australia and New Zealand and the World Health Organisation (WHO), before being approved for general use.

It has a success rate of 95% and is administered in two jabs in the upper arm three weeks apart. The full immunity afforded by the vaccine kicks in a week after the second injection.

New Zealand already has a limited supply of the vaccine which is being given in the first instance to frontline medical and border workers.

We are working very closely with New Zealand to ensure the speedy procurement of supplies for our people. While we don’t yet know exactly when our supplies will arrive, we do have a comprehensive plan for it’s distribution and for vaccinating our people; both here in Rarotonga and in the Pa Enua.

The plan is a whole of society one and involves not just government agencies and employees but many different branches of our society like the Puna.

The government is eager to vaccinate 100% of the elligible population to help prevent a nationwide outbreak of the coronavirus here but moreso to allow us to fast track the kick-start of our tourism industry. COVID-19 has had a devastating affect on our economy, bringing to a stand still our tourist industry which is responsible for 70% of the country’s income – worth approximately $370-million a year.

Like other countries when we do get the vaccine, we will begin by innoculating our frontline health care workers and border people first along with their households.

Our next priority will be our over 60s followed by our under 60s with chronic medical conditions and then the rest of the adult population.

The vaccine is being offered to people 16 years and over, its estimated there are 14 146 people in that category in our islands. There are 3 288 children under that age.

I note with interest comments by Dr Collin Tukuitonga – Associate Dean Pacific at the University of Auckland Faculty of Medical and Health Sciences – saying he believes there are good reasons for New Zealand to supply vaccines early to the so-called realm countries – like ourselves, Niue and Tokelau; especially the Cook Islands which relies so heavily on tourism – to allow us to quickly open up again for business. We certainly support this viewpoint.

I encourage everyone to attend the Te Marae Ora hosted vaccination meetings taking place this week. I know there are some in our country who are hesitant about receiving the vaccine, and some who are adamant they won’t have it. I and my government are urging everybody able to receive the vaccine, to have it. It will save lives, maybe yours.

Already tens of millions of people have been innoculated with one or other of the several vaccines developed and approved for use around the world. In our region Fiji has received an early shipment and it intends to begin by vaccinating it’s frontline workers.

So far with help from New Zealand, and with New Zealand and it’s public health measures acting as a buffer for people entering our country; as well as being vigilant ourselves, we have managed to keep COVID-19 at bay. But as we have seen – even in New Zealand and Australia – this tricky virus manages to get around their measures.

Getting vaccinated provides another layer of protection, and we should seize the opportunity when it arrives. Ultimately it may also determine whether or not we are able to travel freely again.

Your government will keep you informed on when we will get vaccine supplies and how it will administered throughout the country.

Kia Manuia.

Hon Mark Brown

Prime Minister

 

Manihiki celebrates “Women in Leadership”

8 MARCH 2021, RAROTONGA COOK ISLANDS

March 8th is International day of women and Manihiki took this opportunity to celebrate all women on Manihiki, who hold leadership roles as well as those who have since passed on.

In honor of all women, the Prime Minister Hon. Mark Brown gave his statement and then passed the floor over to Alex Herman Commissioner for Seabed Minerals Authority and Director of Marae Moana Maria Tuoro.

Herman spoke about “not letting anything stand in the way of your dreams, and challenged all girls and women to take on leadership roles where they can” as she gave her life story and the pathway she has come through to being the youngest senior official in Government. She thanked the strong women and men mentors and their role in her life, who helped mould her into the leader that she is today.

Tuoro who holds the traditional title of Taarua Rangatira paid homage to all women who came before us, ancestors who sacrificed much so that we may achieve our dreams and also choose what we would like to achieve. “I honor those women who paved the way for us today and so that we may be the legacies of their hopes and dreams”. Tuoro emphasized the need for women to always look back to helping the people and bring them forward all the while moving forward together.

The event was hosted by the combined women committee who celebrates 10 years of celebrating this International day for women on Manihiki. A big cake was lit and cut by the Leader of the Opposition Hon. Tina Browne and wife of Member of Parliament Hon. Henry Puna ending the beautiful ceremony.

The Tauhunu Cyclone shelter hosted the event which was then followed by Covid-19 briefing and updates as well as the Seabed Minerals Authority presentation on progress to date. #IWD2021

 

Ra Akararangi’anga no te iti vaine Kuki Airani – a legacy of strength

8 MARCH 2021, RAROTONGA COOK ISLANDS

The International Women’s Day movement has called upon the global community to “Choose to Challenge” for gender equality this year. In this corner of the world, the Cook Islands is committed to accelerating gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls.

In the Cook Islands, seven of the 14 Public Service Agencies are led by Women with four of the eight Statutory Agencies led by Women. New Zealand, a close neighbour of the Cook Islands, was the first in the world to give Women the right to vote in 1893 – the Cook Islands permitted women to vote soon after.

Today 8th March, our island nation honours te iti vaine o te Kuki Airani and is reminded that we can all strive to do more for gender equality.

“Our Cook Islands women have played a historical role in shaping our country, and they continue to do so in a myriad of ways today,” said Hon Mark Brown, Prime Minister of the Cook Islands.

“When we empower our Cook Islands Women, we are enabling and empowering a richer nation for us all. Kia ‘iki, e kia titau tatou – let all choose to challenge.”

A special event will be commemorated on Manihiki today with Prime Minister Mark Brown.

“We have many role models across our 15 islands that are inspiring and empowering our communities every day. We must commemorate and celebrate them all, not only on International Women’s Day, but every day, as we work together to uplift our people,” said Prime Minister Brown.

The Cook Islands Family Welfare Association (“CIFWA”) hosted an International Women’s Day Breakfast on Saturday featuring guest speaker Dr Evangeline Daniela-Wong who spoke on self-care, mental wellbeing and choosing to challenge.

This evening, the Cook Islands Business and Professional Women’s Association is hosting an event presenting six talented Cook Islands speakers – Teuru Tiraa Passfield, Lindsay Francis, Apa Temata, Pamela Maru, Liana Scott, and Tuaine, Lady Marsters.

2021 is also the 50th anniversary year of Cook Islands Women in Policing. On this month fifty years ago the Cook Islands had their very first women join the Police force – Jane Tuavera and Makiroa Luka .

“The Cook Islands has a legacy of strong women, especially in the face of many challenges,” said Lady Marsters.

“We congratulate our Cook Islands Women and are optimistic for our future with the generations of Women alive today. Many of whom have that perseverance, strength and tenacity to propel us forward towards gender equality across all areas in the Cook Islands.”

The International Women’s Day movement is steeped in a rich history. In 1908, 15,000 women marched through New York City for shorter working hours, better pay and voting rights – NZ saw Women voting since 1893. In 1910, the Second International Conference of Working Women endorsed an International Women’s Day.

In the Cook Islands, our traditional history shows strong Women in leadership with paramount chiefly titles being held by many.

ENDS

 

Prime Minister arrives in Manihiki 

07 MARCH 2021, RAROTONGA COOK ISLANDS

Kua tae meitaki mai te tere o te Parai Minita Mark Brown e tona tere ki runga I a Manihiki I te ra ono o Mati.

Kua āru mai iaia te Tauturu Parai Minita Robert Tapaitau, te Arataki o te tua ‘akatanotano Tina Browne, kapiti mai te nga Maine mata tapua no te tu’anga o te Runanga Takere Moana Alex Herman e Maria Tuoro o te Marae Moana.

Ei akararangi atu I teia tere, kua aru katoa mai te Orometua ngateitei a Tuaine Ngametua (Moutaiki) e te mata o te Pa enua Tokerau a Makirere Poila.

Ka no’o te tere ki runga ia Manihiki no nga ra e oti ka tere atu ki Rakahanga I te kave I te karere no te au anga’anga te raveia nei no te pāruru I to tatou iti tangata e te ipukarea I te maki Koviti-19 pera katoa I te aka’oki mai anga I tetai tuatua out tei tupu no runga I te takere moana e te au ravenga e kimi nei te Kavamani no teia.

Kua ‘ākapa’ata iatu te Parai Minita I te taka’i’anga mai ki runga ia Manihiki I Tukao nei.

Kua mataora aia I teia tei tupu e kua ‘akameitaki aia I te enua tangata katoatoa.

Kua tau mai te tere na runga I te pora, kua riro teia tere ei tere ‘aka’āravei I te iti tangata iaia I runga I teia tao’anga. #manihiki #taumainarungaitepora

Tsunami Warning Downgraded to a Watch for the Cook Islands

4 MARCH 2021, RAROTONGA COOK ISLANDS

The Tsunami Warning for the Cook Islands is now downgraded to a Tsunami Watch. Indications from other monitors around the Pacific region show very little impact from the 8.1 earthquake that was centered in the Kermadec Islands region earlier this morning other than slight increases in the tidal gauge levels.

The wave pattern was expected to reach the Cook Islands at 1.30pm but only showed slightly elevated tidal levels as a result.

An emergency coordination operation was convened at the office of Emergency Management Cook Islands (EMCI) with police, meteorological and emergency services present to advise the Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister.

The Cook Islands Prime Minister was very pleased with both the EMCI response and people taking personal responsibility for themselves and their property. A number of small boat owners either moved their vessels or headed out to the safety of the sea. And businesses on the foreshore closed early as a precaution. Schools also closed today. The Pa Enua were also included in the early warning alerts and have reported no significant wave action.

The Met Office will monitor marine activity for the next few hours before they give the final cancellation of the Tsunami warning.

Police and other organisations were put on alert and observations from vantage points provided. The patrol boat PPB Te Kukupa was also deployed. Live data from tidal gages did record slightly higher than normal amplitudes as a result of the tsunami and there was some sea surge at low-lying coastal spots.

ENDS.

Enquiries to Jaewynn McKay +682 55486

 

Media Statement from Emergency Management Cook Islands

4 MARCH 2021, RAROTONGA COOK ISLANDS

Kia Orana,

A significant (8.1) earthquake has occurred in Kermadec Islands Region. A tsunami has been generated and is expected that significant waves 0.3 to 1 meter will arrive in Cook Islands waters around 11:46am CILT today.

A Marine and Coastal Advisory is now in place for all of the Cook Islands for the next 3 to 4 hours.

People in low-lying coastal areas and local waters are advised to take precautions to safeguard their properties and lives, including small sailing vessels that are anchored in harbors and ports. Waves of this size can cause significant coastal impact thus extra care is needed. Operators of bigger vessels could move into deeper waters as a precaution.

Schools on low lying areas will be closed as a precautionary measure.

Please note that the maximum impact of dangerous tsunami waves will occur around the time of the next high time at 01:30pm CILT today in Rarotonga and after then for the northern islands.

Meitaki maata, be safe everyone.

 

Statement on the Resignation of Speaker Niki Rattle

15 FEBRUARY 2021, RAROTONGA COOK ISLANDS

“Over the weekend Speaker Niki Rattle advised me of her resignation.

Some time ago Mrs Rattle indicated that she would not be seeking reappointment beyond this current term. Resigning from a role such as this one takes courage and I concur with her statement “that in a healthy democracy, office holders will be refreshed from time to time”.

For the last 9 years Mrs Rattle has served as Speaker of the Cook Islands Parliament with integrity and intelligence. I would rate her to be one of our best speakers, certainly in my time in Parliament.

If you think the role of Speaker is confined to time in the debating chamber maintaining order during question time and debates, you would be wrong. During Speaker Rattle’s tenure two long overdue projects were initiated and are on track for completion in the not-too-distant future.

A review of the Standing Orders and a consolidation of the Laws of the Cook Islands are two pieces of work that once complete will serve our Parliament and Parliamentarians well into the future.

Mrs Rattle’s advocacy for more women and young people to seek a career in Parliament; the Speaker’s Debates on Poverty and Mental Health; her engagement around International Women’s Day and the launch of the Women’s Parliamentarians Caucus on that day in 2018 which coincided with the visit of Prime Minister Ardern are events that will be associated with her legacy.

As Speaker, Mrs Rattle was a trailblazer for the Cook Islands. At the 2019 Commonwealth Parliamentarian Association Conference in Kampala, Mrs Rattle was elected Chairman of the Network by the Small Branches. She has fulfilled this role and many other similar ones with countless virtual meetings since the pandemic was declared almost a year ago.

Under Speaker Rattle’s watch too, Cook Islanders world-wide have been able to tune into Parliamentary sittings via live stream for the first time.

On behalf of all the Members of Parliament and the people of the Cook Islands I thank Mrs Rattle for her service to her country.

The now former Speaker and I became grandparents last year – she for the third time, me for the first. I think I know where most of her newly found time is going to be spent and I am very happy for her and send her every best wish”.

ENDS.

Enquiries to Jaewynn McKay +682 55486; jaewynn.mckay@wovenpacific.com

 

Public Service Commissioner Appointed

14 FEBRUARY 2021, RAROTONGA COOK ISLANDS

A former senior public servant who has spent the last seven years in a senior management position at one of the largest construction companies in the Cook Islands, has been appointed the new Public Service Commissioner.

Carl Hunter will replace the present Public Service Commissioner – Russell Thomas – who retires after almost nine years in the role.

All told, Carl Hunter spent 25 years working in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Immigration, beginning as a Foreign Affairs Officer and rising to Director of the Pacific Division.

During his time as a senior diplomat, he was involved with multiple agencies and Governments around the Pacific, representing the Cook Islands at numerous fora including accompanying Prime Ministers and other senior leaders throughout the region and further afield.

After a quarter of a century of public service, Hunter decided to take up a new challenge, this time working in the private sector; where both his parents have established large and successful business enterprises. In particular, he’s spent seven years working alongside his two bothers in the management of the family-managed steel construction and welding business Rarotonga Welding and Steel Construction.

The selection process involved advertising the position, shortlisting and interviewing prospective appointees.

As per the Cook Islands Constitution, the Public Service Commissioner is appointed by the Queen’s Representative on the recommendation of the Prime Minister.

The qualities and approach he expects to bring to the job can be gauged by his personal profile in which he describes himself as hardworking, embracing of new challenges, striving to achieve results in an holistic manner and passionate about achieving the best for the country and people.

On accepting this appointment, Mr Hunter said “It is fair to say that I am both humbled and extremely honored that Government has chosen to appoint me to this top post and I intend not to let anyone down. I am aware of the numerous significant challenges that comes with accepting this post in terms of improving public service delivery and professionalism. In saying that, however, I am quietly confident that this goal is achievable with the current crop of hard working, motivated, passionate and talented individuals employed in the public service. As with my working experiences both at MFAI followed by Raro Weld, to achieve desired results ultimately boils down to a team effort and everyone stepping up to play their part.”

Commenting on Mr Hunter’s appointment – Prime Minister and Minister for the Public Service, Mark Brown – said “His extensive experience and substantial knowledge of our government systems and other administrations around the Pacific region gained during his first 25 years in the public service, give him a flying start in this new role; and the recent experience he brings from his time in the private sector adds enormous value to that. Carl brings with him qualities that are much needed during these challenging times.

“Our public service needs to, more than ever, work in collaboration and work smarter if we are to get through this COVID pandemic without too much loss. Carl has an intimate understanding of the public service and knows the importance of teamwork to get things done. I look forward to him working to improve the public service enabling Government to deliver better and more cost effective services to the public.”

The role of the Public Service Commissioner is to promote and implement policies and practices that support good governance across the public sector.

The Prime Minister will be introducing Carl Hunter to the Heads of Ministries for the first time as Public Service Commissioner tomorrow, Monday 15th February, the day Mr Hunter will begin his three year appointment.

ENDS.

Enquiries to Jaewynn McKay +682 55486; jaewynn.mckay@wovenpacific.com

 

STATEMENT BY THE HONOURABLE MARK BROWN, PRIME MINISTER OF THE COOK ISLANDS

Recent Pacific Islands Forum Developments

11 FEBRUARY 2021, RAROTONGA COOK ISLANDS

I would like to set out briefly my Government’s position regarding recent developments concerning the selection of the Secretary General of the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat.

From 1971 when it became a founding Member of the Forum, the Cook Islands has played an active role in Forum activities, firmly committed to regional cooperation and collaboration as the best way to address our concerns and advance our interests in such crucial areas as climate change, regional security and sustainable development. In that light, with the term of the current Secretary General, Dame Meg Taylor, coming to an end, my Government gave serious consideration to the appointment of her successor.

We were guided first and foremost by the 2002 decision of Forum Leaders that candidates for the position must be assessed on their merits taking into account the circumstances at the time of selection. In light of the enormous challenges facing our region at this time, including the impact of COVID-19 on our region, my Government was pleased to nominate our former Prime Minister, Mr Henry Puna, as Secretary General. It was the first time in the Forum’s 50-year history that the Cook Islands had nominated a candidate for that position.

Mr Puna is a qualified lawyer and had served as our Prime Minister for almost a decade. He is intimately familiar with our region and its challenges, having represented our country at many Forum Leaders meetings, has visited every Forum Member Country and held detailed discussions with Leaders in each. He has also over the last decade served the region in various regional governance roles including Chair of the Pacific Islands Forum in 2012; Chancellor of the University of the South Pacific in 2017; Chair of the Forum Fisheries Commission in 2018; and Chair of Conference for the Pacific Community (SPC) 2019. In the view of my Government, Mr Puna is eminently qualified for the appointment and ideally placed to be of service to the region as Secretary General of the PIF.

At the same time, my Government recognised that the decision to appoint a Secretary General is invariably one of importance to all Forum Leaders. Being a firm adherent of the Pacific Way of discussion and consensus-building, from the time of his nomination, my Government had always wanted the decision to be taken during a face-to-face meeting of Forum Leaders. It was however the collective decision of Leaders to proceed to voting during the Special Retreat and accept the collective decision of Leaders.

While my Government is grateful for the support of Leaders for Mr Puna as Secretary General, we are saddened by the subsequent decision by Leaders of Micronesia taken during the subsequent Micronesian Presidents’ Summit to withdraw from the Forum.

I fully appreciate the desire of Micronesia’s Members to play a full role in Forum activities and contribute to the development of our entire Blue Pacific continent. Our Forum has always been most effective, and delivered best for all our people in the Pacific when we have worked together as a single, unified body. At the same time, I also recognise that our Forum must operate on the basis of principles, procedures and arrangements appropriate for today’s Pacific. Towards that end, as agreed by all Leaders at our Pacific Islands Forum Special Leaders Retreat on the 3 February, I am committed to working closely with all Forum Leaders to review the 2002 appointment procedures for the Secretary General to ensure that all Forum Members have a fair and equitable opportunity to serve the region at the highest level.

I am confident that, together, the Forum will emerge from our discussions over the next few months stronger and more unified to confront the unprecedented challenges we face as a region in the years to come.

The decision of Leaders of the Pacific Islands Forum Special Leaders’ Retreat held on 3 February 2021 can be viewed on the Secretariat website at https://www.forumsec.org/…/2021-Special-Leaders-Retreat…

ENDS.

Enquiries to Ewan Cameron of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs & Immigration +682 29347; ewan.cameron@cookislands.gov.ck

 

New regulations on the way for 60+ drivers

12 FEBRUARY 2021, RAROTONGA COOK ISLANDS 

The Prime Minister and Minister of Police, Hon Mark Brown, has announced that regulations requiring drivers aged over 60 years to undergo medical and eyesight examinations, and to re-sit their licence annually, will be scrapped. Instead new regulations bringing our driver licence rules into line with New Zealand and Australia will be introduced.

Prime Minister Mark Brown says “I understand that it means the more stringent driver re-licence arrangements, which includes a medical test will not kick-in until drivers turn 75 years”.

The Prime Minister added “it appears the current regulations for drivers 60 years and over were included in a raft of regulations associated with the helmet reglulations that were passed in 2016. Only recently have they been enforced”.

The new regulations are expected to be discussed by Cabinet and passed by Executive Council in the near future.

In addition, the government is pleased to advise that the COVID-19 related temporary halt on major fund-raising raffles and “housie” nights has been lifted, allowing these activities to resume.

Organisers will once again be required to obtain permits for both activities from the Police as per the pre COVID conditions that applied.

ENDS: Enquiries to Jaewynn McKay +682 55486

 

Pukapuka Hospital Opens

10 FEBRUARY 2021, RAROTONGA COOK ISLANDS

The official opening of the new Pukapuka Hospital proved a fitting way to round out the end of Prime Minister Mark Brown’s northern group mission last week.

Having first arrived in Pukapuka aboard the MV Taunga Nui barge on Tuesday morning and subsequently spending a day on Nassau as well, Prime Minister Brown was very pleased to officiate the hospital opening in Pukapuka on Thursday afternoon.

“First and foremost, I would like to acknowledge the hard work of everyone, both here and in Rarotonga, who helped bring this amazing new project to fruition,” he said. “We first identified the Pukapuka Hospital in need of full replacement 2 years ago, I’m so happy we are back to open the new one”.

“I know this hospital will be of great benefit to the people of Pukapuka – and Nassau, thanks to the new ferry – for many years to come.

“This hospital was built and paid for by ourselves as Cook Islanders. It demonstrates our growing ability and the need to fend for ourselves since we achieved developed nation status in January last year. It is a shining example of what can be achieved by and for our Pa Enua.”

The original Pukapuka Hospital was constructed some 60-odd years ago from limestone and concrete. Formerly consisting of 14 rooms and offices spread over two buildings, extensions to both structures means the newly upgraded facilities now provide approximately 25 per cent more space.

Accordingly, Pukapuka Hospital now boasts a new maternity ward and delivery room, new men’s and women’s wards, a new kitchen, and a dental clinic. Bathroom and shower areas have also been upgraded, the waiting area has been extended, and a 50,000-litre underground concrete water tank has been installed.

Estimated total costs for the project were $1 million, covering labour and materials, including special hospital-grade vinyl flooring which was imported from England after the New Zealand suppliers were affected by COVID-19. Te Marae Ora with support from MFEM is sourcing new beds and other equipment for the hospital, utilising COVID related appropriations.

Pukapuka-Nassau MP Tingika Elikana was a driving force in prioritising this project for the people and communities of his constituency.

“I would like to thank the people of Pukapuka and Nassau for their contributions during consultations on the scope and design of this project,” he said.

Elikana also acknowledged the work of local island government officials Mayor Levi Walewaoa and Executive Officer Pio Ravarua, as well as their admin staff and support networks.

“I would also like to thank Te Aronga Mana o Pukapuka – Papa Ariki and the Tawa leaders and council members,” he added. “Not to mention the dozen or so locals who helped provide labour on this job and our four Cook Islands Investment Corporation staff who returned home for the nine-month construction period.”

Others involved in the Pukapuka Hospital upgrade include contractors Romani Katoa and Teariki Pirangi, consultants Des Eggelton and Tani Mussel, and the CIIC board, including former and current CEOs Tamari’i Tutangata and Allan Jensen.

Following the official hospital opening, Prime Minister Brown and other members of the northern group government delegation attended a late evening consultation session with the people of Pukapuka on matters regarding the Marae Moana, seabed minerals and quarantine-free travel.

The next day an Air Rarotonga flight returned the Prime Minister, accompanied by MP Elikana and several other delegation members, to Rarotonga, while others are currently making their way back on the MV Taunga Nui barge. It is expected that they will arrive back in Rarotonga this evening.

ENDS: Enquiries to Jaewynn McKay +682 55486

Prime Minister Delegation – Pukapuka-Nassau

4 FEBRUARY 2021, RAROTONGA COOK ISLANDS

Having arrived in Pukapuka on Tuesday morning, Prime Minister Mark Brown and his accompanying government delegation are now in the final stages of their mission to the northern group this week.

Approaching the Pukapukan shore on one of the MV Taunga Nui barge’s small boats, Prime Minister Brown and the delegation members were welcomed in the traditional manner by a young warrior performing the valovalo.

Accepting this traditional challenge and accompanying ceremonial palm frond, the Prime Minister was then carried on a pa’ata through a uniformed guard of honour before being formally welcomed by Pukapuka mayor Levi Walewaoa.

Following several speeches and other formalities, the party then moved back down to the beach, where Pukapuka-Nassau MP Tingika Elikana officially presented the island with their two front-loading tractors that had been transported on the barge all the way from Rarotonga.

Afterwards, at a kaikai at the local CICC hall, CIIC Associate Minister Albert Nicholas also presented the people of Pukapuka with donations of food – including milk powder, flour, chicken and tea – on behalf of Prime Minister Brown and the government delegation.

In the afternoon, the Prime Minister virtually attended a meeting of Pacific Islands Forum leaders via an online Zoom call, where he urged his colleagues around the Pacific “to protect the investments that have taken place over a number of years in building up the economic products that we have – whether they be in tourism, whether they be an export product, or whether they be in other sectors”.

“The financial institutions that support many of our countries need to look at unique and tailored solutions for financial support to keep our economies running and on our feet,” he added. “Taking into account the unique impact that COVID-19 has had, not just on our individual countries or in our region, but globally as well.”

From Pukapuka, the Prime Minister and delegation then journeyed to Nassau, where they arrived on Wednesday morning, spectacularly greeted by a fanfare of trumpets.

Smiling and relaxed, the Prime Minister made a short speech of appreciation for the rousing welcome and hospitality shown by the people of Nassau, followed by a few words from island MP Tingika Elikana.

There was also a kaikai with donations of food and books for the island’s children, the rest of the afternoon then being spent in consultation on matters pertaining to seabed minerals and other issues.

Speaking later, MP Elikana made special mention of the excitement caused by the newly delivered Pukapuka-Nassau ferry. Built by Raro Weld and costing more than $300,000, it has a capacity of 15 passengers.

“This ferry is a dream come true for the people of Pukapuka and Nassau,” said Elikana. “It will allow for medical evacuations and other emergencies to be dealt with and in the longer term we hope it will cater for tourism and other economic development.”

One of the ferry’s first duties however, was to return the Prime Minister and his delegation to Pukapuka, where they arrived safely just an hour or so before midnight.

This was Prime Minister Brown’s first official visit to Pukapuka and Nassau as PM.

 

Prime Minister Congratulates Next Secretary General of the Pacific Islands Forum

3 FEBRUARY 2021, RAROTONGA COOK ISLANDS

Prime Minister Mark Brown would like to offer his congratulations to former prime minister Henry Puna, who early this morning was voted in as the new Secretary General of the Pacific Islands Forum (PIF).

“This appointment is a well-deserved recognition of the experience and expertise our former prime minister can bring to bear as he works towards enhancing the economic and social well-being of our Pacific region,” said Prime Minister Brown of his predecessor.

“I know he will continue to serve not only the Cook Islands, but all Forum member states to the very best of his abilities, as he has done in the past.”

Former prime minister Puna is the first Cook Islander to head the PIF since it was founded in 1971. He succeeds Papua New Guinea’s Dame Meg Taylor, the outgoing secretary general, who held the post for six years.

“We sincerely commend the high calibre of all five candidates for the post of Secretary General of the PIF Secretariat and are grateful for the confirmation of Mr Puna as Secretary General,” said Prime Minister Brown.

“As prime minister of the Cook Islands for just under a decade, and a dedicated public servant for some time prior to that, Puna has served our nation and the wider Pacific for many years now. I want to particularly acknowledge the leadership he showed his Cabinet and his country during the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic. His calm and considered approach was exactly what the country needed.”

A former lawyer, he was appointed Cook Islands High Commissioner to New Zealand in September 1999, and first stood for Parliament in the seat of Manihiki at the 2004 general election, eventually winning via a by-election held in 2005.

He lost his seat in 2006 but was re-elected as MP for Manihiki in 2010 and sworn in as prime minister later that same year.

While in office Puna was integral in the establishment of the Marae Moana marine reserve and also went on to become a founding member of the Polynesian Leaders Group.

In 2012 he took over the rotating position of PIF chair and in this role hosted a highly successful Pacific Leaders Forum and a visit by then US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton and encouraged the Forum to place a greater focus on wider issues of sustainability within the Pacific. As Forum Chair he also called for the restoration of democracy in Fiji following the 2006 coup and demanded stronger action on climate change.

ENDS: Enquiries to Jaewynn McKay +682 55486

 

Prime Minister’s Delegation Reaches Suwarrow

3 FEBRUARY 2021, RAROTONGA COOK ISLANDS

After departing Palmerston on Friday and spending a full day at sea on Saturday, Prime Minister Mark Brown continued his round trip of several northern group islands this week with a visit to Suwarrow on Sunday.

Accompanied by CIIC Associate Minister Albert Nicholas and a government delegation of officials and workers from Infrastructure Cook Islands (ICI), Cook Islands Investment Corporation (CIIC), Seabed Minerals Authority, National Environment Service (NES) and the Marae Moana office, Prime Minister Brown arrived in Suwarrow on Sunday morning aboard the MV Taunga Nui barge.

The main purpose of Sunday’s stop at the usually uninhabited island was to drop off park ranger Harry Papa’i and NES officer Jessie Nicholson, who will be conducting various flora and fauna surveys and setting rat bait to check for the presence of the invasive rodents that have been the focus of an ongoing eradication program.

Nicholson is expected to remain on the island for several weeks, or until an Assistant Ranger can be found and located to Suwarrow. Veteran ranger Papa’i will be there for eight months, continuing his NES duties and also keeping an eye out for any overseas sailing vessels, which are currently barred from visiting the island due to COVID-19 border restrictions.

“As a national park of the Cook Islands since 1978, Suwarrow is a hugely important part of our Marae Moana,” said Prime Minister Brown. “The work that Harry and his fellow NES rangers do here is of immense value and I am sure all Cook Islanders are grateful for their efforts.”

“It’s a very special moment to come to Suwarrow for the first time – and it’s great that we’ve brought the park rangers that’ll be spending the next season here on the island, looking after it, and especially protecting the unique biodiversity that exists here – the birdlife, the sealife, the crabs and so forth.

“It’s very important biodiversity too, because this island hosts a significant percentage of frigate birds globally, so maintaining this as a national park is part of our Cook Islands duty as a good global citizen.”

While rangers typically only spend five to six months of the year on Suwarrow, returning home in November before the start of cyclone season, the COVID-19 pandemic last year prevented NES from sending out their rangers as usual, meaning no staff have been stationed on the island since 2019.

Accordingly, NES decided to send them early this year, anticipating a greater than normal need to carry out repairs on the rangers’ lodgings and other island facilities.

Luckily, the entire government delegation onboard MV Taunga Nui – including Prime Minister Brown – were willing and eager to assist the two NES rangers with their initial setup tasks upon arrival in Suwarrow.

Essential supplies – including food, timber, roofing iron, water tanks, a fridge, and an oven – were ferried from barge to shore using small boats, then carried by hand to the ranger station.

“Unsurprisingly, everything was quite overgrown, so we spent pretty much the whole day on a working bee,” said a delegation member, Seabed Minerals Commissioner Alex Herman.

“Cleaning, grass cutting, helping them cart all the supplies – it’s a good thing we had as many people as we did. The whole government delegation, including the PM – who I saw raking rubbish – was helping clean and carry all this stuff to get the job done.

“The rangers were really grateful – if they’d had to do it themselves it would have taken a very long time.”

Prime Minister Brown and the delegation departed Suwarrow on Monday morning to continue their northern-group journey to Pukapuka, where they arrived on Wednesday morning.

Further updates will be provided as the charter progresses.

Photo below: MV Taunga Nui approaching Suwarrow

ENDS

Enquiries to Jaewynn McKay +682 55486

 

Prime Minister’s visit to Palmerston

29 JANUARY 2021, RAROTONGA COOK ISLANDS 

Making his first official stop on a round trip of several northern group islands that he’ll be visiting this coming week, Prime Minister Mark Brown arrived in Palmerston on Thursday evening – the first time he has visited the island in his official capacity as Prime Minister.

Prime Minister Brown is currently leading a delegation of government officials and workers visiting the islands of Palmerston, Suwarrow, Pukapuka and Nassau for a series of consultations on matters regarding Marae Moana, seabed minerals and quarantine-free travel.

The delegation includes representatives from Infrastructure Cook Islands (ICI), Cook Islands Investment Corporation (CIIC), Seabed Minerals Authority, National Environment Service (NES) and the Marae Moana office, as well as the Member of Parliament for Avatiu-Ruatonga-Palmerston and Associate Minister for CIIC, Albert Nicholas.

Having departed Aitutaki on Wednesday evening onboard the MV Taunga Nui barge, the government delegation arrived safely in Palmerston at 6pm on Thursday, with local boats bringing the passengers ashore.

The island executive hosted an official welcome that same evening for Prime Minister Brown, Associate Minister Nicholas, and the other delegation members, followed by public consultations on Marae Moana, seabed minerals and quarantine-free travel issues, which concluded at 11pm.

“Everything ran smoothly and the Prime Minister, Albert Nicholas and the delegation all seemed happy to be on Palmerston,” said island executive officer Arthur Neale.

Early Friday morning, much-needed cargo for the island was unloaded from the barge, while the Prime Minister and others were treated to a lagoon motu tour.

Later the Prime Minister and Albert Nicholas officially opened Palmerston’s new Emergency Management Centre/Cyclone Shelter, with the PM planting a two-shoot coconut to commemorate the day and the joint funding of the Centre by the Japanese and Cook Islands governments. The formalities were followed by an ariki’anga kaikai and the gifting of food contributions to the Palmerston community.

“I am very pleased to be here, to meet our people of Palmerston and to attend these important events,” said Prime Minister Brown. “While I wish we could have stayed longer, I feel like we have definitely made the most of our short time here and I look forward to the next visit.”

Speaking after the opening of the Emergency Management Centre/Cyclone Shelter, Mr Albert Nicholas described it as one of his “proudest moments as an MP”.

“This cyclone shelter will provide the people of Palmerston with safe haven in the event of a cyclone, and also serves as a medical and community centre,” he said.

“This project is over 20 years in the making – past and present MPs have all been a part of the struggle to see this project come to fruition.

“In fact, it started during the time of my late father, Albert Peto Nicholas, when he was an MP. I would like to acknowledge his and former MP John Henry’s contributions towards realising this goal for our people of Palmerston.”

Mr Nicholas also thanked the Queen’s Representative Sir Tom Marsters for his continuous contributions, efforts and advocacy on behalf of the cyclone shelter project, as well as past and present Palmerston council members, mayors and executive officers, including Bob Marsters, Tapai Marsters, Lydia Sijp, Tere Marsters and Arthur Neale.

He concluded by thanking current and former prime ministers Mark Brown and Henry Puna, as well as contractor Bill Doherty and his Landholdings crew for their construction work.

“May we all continue to work together for the betterment of the people of Palmerston and all of our Pa Enua. God bless you all.”

Palmerston’s is the third cyclone shelter built in the Pa Enua so far. Two more shelters are currently being built, fully funded by the Cook Islands government.

The barge departed Palmerston on Friday afternoon, the Prime Minister and delegation are expected to spend all of Saturday at sea and should arrive in Suwarrow sometime on Sunday morning.

Further updates will be provided as the charter progresses.

ENDS.

Enquiries to Jaewynn McKay +682 55486

 

USA Rejoining the Paris Agreement is a Great Start to Biden’s Presidency

21 JANUARY 2021, RAROTONGA COOK ISLANDS

Cook Islands Prime Minister Mark Brown today welcomed the United States of America rejoining the Paris Agreement on climate change.

“It’s great to see one of the super-powers of the world realigning and putting focus squarely back on what is undoubtedly humanity’s greatest threat to its survival” he said.

“We in the Cook Islands welcome President Biden’s decision. Whilst climate change is THE issue affecting small island states, it is a global issue, and we all have a part to play.

“Its notable that President Biden has moved so quickly. This demonstrates the urgency. We look forward with optimism to further announcements by the new administration on what commitments the USA will support, particularly for our Pacific region”.

“At this time too, I want to congratulate President Biden and Vice-President Harris on their incredibly successful inauguration yesterday. It was an uplifting event. They have wasted little time getting on to their work and actioning their plans. I wish them every success”.

ENDS.

Enquiries to Jaewynn McKay +682 55486;

 

HELP ON THE WAY – TO THE PEOPLE OF TONGAREVA

7 JANUARY 2021, RAROTONGA COOK ISLANDS

Prime Minister Mark Brown says while people are being urged to conserve water on Rarotonga, drought conditions on the country’s northern most island Tongareva have reached such dire straits that the Cabinet has this afternoon approved a shipment of much needed water to the island, along with equipment and measures to provide medium and longer term relief from drought conditions.

“There has not been any significant rain on Tongareva for the last six months, and no rain in sight for several months ahead. The situation is such that private and community tanks with any water at all, are sitting at approximately 10% full; others are dry. The situation in Tongareva represents the very real effects of climate change” he said a short time ago.

There’s an estimated 70 000 litres of water left on the island for the 250 residents, if there is no rainfall, and at a conservative allocation of 20-litres per person per day, Tongareva will be out of water in 14 days.

To provide immediate relief, the Cook Islands General Transport barge Taunga Nui will leave for Tongareva on Saturday carrying 200-thousand litres of water along with equipment for a desalination plant to convert seawater to fresh water. Material to install a ground water gallery on Omoka and Tetautua and a further 170-tonnes of cargo for the cyclone shelter project being built on the island will also be amongst the cargo heading north.

The Taio Shipping company vessel Grinna is on standby to transport another 60-thousand litres of water north if conditions do not improve in a couple of weeks. To that end Taio Shipping is on the look out for water tanks to assist with storage on board the Grinna.

The emergency water being supplied will be suitable for cooking and washing, but should still be boiled for drinking. While it will provide immediate relief, water technicians from Infrastructure Cook Islands departed this morning to set up a desalination plant to make drinking water from seawater and groundwater, and a temporary underground gallery will be set up from which water will be drawn for community use.

In the longer term monery will be set aside to build permanent underground galleries.

Deputy Prime Minister and Member of Parliament for Tongareva – Robert Tapaitau is currently in Tongareva. “I welcome the support coming from the government and thank everyone who is working to assist in our time of need. There is no place I would rather be in these challenging times, than amongst my people in Tongareva. The spirit of the people here runs high and in times like this we come together as a community to support each other, look out for each other and share what little we have with each other”, he stated this afternoon.

ENDS.

Enquiries to Jaewynn McKay +682 55486; jaewynn.mckay@wovenpacific.com

 

Prime Minister’s New Year Message 

31 DECEMBER 2020, RAROTONGA COOK ISLANDS

Aka’aravei’anga

Kia Orana ki te katoatoa no te mataiti ou – kua irinaki au e, te puma’ana nei tatou katoatoa e te akaruke nei tatou I te mataiti 2020 ki muri, e ka tomo atu tatou ki roto I te mataiti ou. Ko te irinaki’anga ka tungata rai te mataiti e tu mai nei, inara kia mou to tatou irinaki’anga ki runga I te au mea meitaki te ka tupu mai I teia mataiti 2021.

No’atu te tungata tei tomo mai ana tatou na roto, kua riro to tatou tu ta’okota’i, tu tauturu tetai ki tetai, ei tu turangatira no to tatou Basileia. Kua kite tatou I to tatou tu tiratiratu I te tuatau o te tarekareka Cook Islands Games I te ta’okota’i’anga mai I to tatou iti tangata. Kua rave katoa atu te pae turoto I tetai tu’anga akama’ara’anga e te akameitaki’anga no te au tangata e te pitiniti I roto I te tuanga turoto tei riro ei akamatutu I te manako e te inangaro o te katoatoa I roto I teia mataiti tungata. No atu ta tatou I kite na roto I teia mataiti kua irinaki au e kua mataora te katoatoa I te tuatau Kiritimiti.

Ia tatou ka tomo atu ki roto I te mataiti 2021, te inangaro nei au kia rauka ia tatou teia tu’akapapa no te au marama ki mua. Kia rauka ia kotou katoatoa te irinaki’anga e te rave nei te Kavamani I te au mea tau te ka riro ei turuturu I te iti tangata katoatoa, mei te au tangata tatakitai e tae u’atu ki te au tuanga kimi puapinga. Mei te tuatau I tomo mai ei tatou na roto I teia maki korona, kua tae atu, mei tetai $53 mirioni ta te Kavamani I ta’anga’anga no te tauturu I to tatou Basileia, koia oki mei tetai $6 mirioni I te marama okotai. Ko teia tuanga moni, kua na runga ake te reira I te au akakore’anga tero, tutaki’anga moni meangiti no te u’ira, e pera te akameangiti’anga I te tutaki moni no te tuatau akangaroi. Ko teia au tu’anga tauturu kua tae atu te reira ki tetai 4,000 tangata anga’anga, e pera tetai 400 au pitiniti. Kua irinaki matou e kua riro teia tauturu ei akamatutu I te tuanga kimi puapinga, e pera no te tiaki I te au tangata anga’anga, e tae ua mai ki teia tuatau Kiritimiti.

No reira, I teia tuatau, ka anoano au I te tuatua atu no runga I te Tuanga Toru o te Parani Moni Tauturu.

Ripoti Ono Marama e te akatu’era’anga I te Basileia

I teia marama I topa kua tuku atu te Kavamani I te ripoti tei akapapa’ia atu no te ono marama o te mataiti akatu’anga moni o te Basileia. Kua marama ua tatou e kua ma’ata te tu’anga moni tei akapo’u iatu ki te au tuanga tukeke o te Basileia ei tauturu I te katoatoa na roto I teia tuatau. Ko te mea maata kia marama tatou koia oki, te anoano nei te Kavamani kia vai to tatou tu turangatira, pera katoa te akara atu nei I te au tuatau ki mua no te akatuera’anga I te Basileia I te tuanga turoto.

Te anga’anga pakari nei te Kavamani kia rauka tetai akatuera’anga I te Basileia ki te au turoto no Nutireni anake ua, I roto I te marama Mati. Te rave ia nei tetai au anga’anga ki roto I te airport no te akamatutu atu I te turanga aka’atea I te au tangata te ka tae mai ki to tatou Basileia mei te au tangata te ka aere au ki Nutireni. Te akapapa katoa ia nei tetai au apinga tauturu I te anga’anga no te akara atu I te tangata te ka tomo mai ki roto I to tatou Basileia. I teia tuatau, kua oti tetai au anga’anga akameitaki’anga no te are maki kia matutu te turanga no te ti’aki’anga I te au tangata maki.

Kua marama au e te taitaia nei rai tetai pae ia tatou no runga I teia maki korona, inara, te akapapa atu nei au e ka anga’anga meitaki te Kavamani na roto I te akapapu’anga e ka anoano’ia te turanga meitaki no te akatuera’anga I te Basileia. Te anga’anga pakari nei te Kavamani I te akara atu I te au tu’anga katoatoa I mua ake ka akatu’era ia atu ei te Basileia. Mei te tuatau e akatu’era iatu ei te Basileia, ka anoano ia katoa te au pitiniti kia tauturu I te tiaki I to tatou iti tangata – na roto I te ta’anga’anga I te au ture tei akono’ia I raro ake I te CookSafe.

Ko te tamanako’anga a te Kavamani, ka tu’era atu to tatou Basileia ki te au turoto no Nutireni mai I roto ia Mati. Kua irinaki ia e ka aere marie te tuanga turoto I te nga marama mua.

No reira, kua tamanako te Kavamani kia akatere ia atu te tuatau no te Tuanga Moni Tauturu ki te au Pitiniti e ta ratou au tangata anga’anga.

Tuanga Toru – Parani Moni Tauturu

Ko te tuanga toru o te Parani Moni Tauturu ka tutaki iatu te reira na roto I te Akapapa’anga Moni at the Kavamani. Te anga’anga pakari nei te Kavamani I te akarakara atu I te au tu’anga akapo’u’anga moni tukeke e te tuku atu anga I te moni I te au tu’anga ka inangaro maata ia.

Ko teia tetai o te au tu tauturu tei tamanako’ia mai i roto I te Tuanga Toru o te Parani Moni Tauturu.

Ko te tutaki’anga moni tauturu ki te au tangata anga’anga I roto I te au Pitiniti, ka akatere iatu te reira ki te marama Aperira. Ka riro teia I te tauturu I te au Pitini I te tutaki I te aronga anga’anga e tae atu ki te tuatau ka tere akao’u mai ei te turoto.

Ka akamata katoa ia tetai au tuku’anga moni tauturu ki te au Pitiniti. Ka riro teia I te tauturu I te au Pitiniti kia vai matutu ratou e te akapapa’anga atu no te au turoto. Ka tutaki ia teia moni I roto ia Peperuare e pera katoa I roto ia Aperira. Ka aru te reira I te au akapapa’anga o te moni tutaki aronga anga’anga (wage subsidy). Ko te tu’anga moni teia akataka’ia mei tetai $2,000 ki te $15,000 na runga I te maata o taau Pitiniti e pera te numero tangata te anga’anga ana ki roto I taau Pitiniti.

Ka akakake katoa iatu te moni tauturu I te au Pitiniti rikiriki e te tatakitai mei the $2,000 ki te $3,000.

Ka akatere katoa atu te Kavamani I te tutaki’anga o te apii no te au tangata e akaoti nei I ta ratou au apii’anga certificate me kare te diploma. Ka riro teia no te tauturu I te au tangata tei akamata te apii I roto I te marama Tiurai I topa ake nei kia tae ta ratou apii ki te openga.

Kua anoano katoa te Kavamani I te akamama I te apa’inga I runga I te au Pitiniti e tangata anga’anga ta ratou mei vao mai I te Basileia. Ka akakore iatu no tetai taime ua, te tutaki’anga moni no te tuku’anga atu I te au tangata anga’anga porena mei tetai Pitiniti ki tetai Pitiniti ke. Inara, ko teia tauturu ka o’ake ua ia te reira ki te au Pitiniti e rekoti meitaki to ratou no te tuatau I topa ki muri.

Ka akatere katoa iatu te akameangiti anga o te tutaki moni no te tuatau akangaroi ki te marama Mati 2021, mei tei matau ia I te nga marama I topa ake nei.

Pera katoa, ko te akamama anga o te tutaki’anga u’ira no te au ngutuare e te Pitiniti mei te matau ia, ka akatere katoa iatu te reira ki te marama Mati 2021.

Ko te maata anga o te au tuatua no runga I te Tuanga Toru o te Parani Moni Tauturu ka tuku iatu te reira I runga I te kapi roro u’ira a te MFEM I roto ia Tianuare.

Aka’oti’anga

Kua nakirokiro au e ka tuatua teia au Pitiniti e ko te akatere’anga o te Moni Tauturu, e, e mea meangiti roa teia; e ko tetai pae ka manamanata ratou I te turanga moni o te Kavamani. Inara, te tauta pakari nei te Kavamani I te akatanotano I te tauturu ka rauka no te Basileia e pera ma te akara kia kore e maata te kaiou anga moni a te Basileia.

Ia tatou e tuku nei I te mataiti 2020 ki muri, te rauka nei iaku teia tika’anga kia akameitaki ia kotou katoatoa – te au Pitiniti, te au tangata anga’anga, te au putuputu’anga, to tatou iti tangata, te Kuki Airani katoatoa, ko kotou tei anga’anga kapiti mai ki te Kavamani kia matutu to tatou Basileia I teia mataiti tungata.

Kia kite tatou I te au manamanata teia maki I akatupu I roto I te tuanga o te ora’anga e pera te kimi puapinga. I teia tuatau, te rauka katoa nei iaku I te akameitaki I te au tangata anga’anga katoatoa I roto I te Kavamani. Te au Tipatimani tukeke, e pera katoa te aronga kimi puapinga, ko kotou tei anga’anga pakari I te paruru I to tatou Basileia mei te tuatau I riro mai ei teia kupu COVID-19 ei tuatua matau ia e tatou, e tae mai ki teia ra.

Kia Manuia I te Mataiti Ou.

 

Prime Minister’s New Year Message 

31 DECEMBER 2020, RAROTONGA COOK ISLANDS

KIA ORANA KOTOU KATOATOA,

Introduction

Happy New Year to you all – I believe I am not alone in being glad that 2020 is over and that we now get to move into a new year. A year that will be equally challenging, but with signs of hope – a light on the horizon that will bring in 2021.

While this was a challenging year, we should consider the positives – our community has rallied together, helping each other get through these hard times, we held the hugely successful Cook Islands games that revived our island spirit after months of hardship and lockdown. The tourism industry held a terrific awards night that recognised and lifted people even during our bleakest year, and despite our challenges, it looks like most of us have had a very merry Christmas.

As we move into 2021 I want us all to be prepared for difficult times over the coming months. That said I want you to have confidence in your Government, confidence we are still doing all that we can to support all of you – both households and businesses.

Since this pandemic began the Government has spent just over $53 million on supporting the economy, that’s almost $6 million per month. This is in addition to the cost of the tax cuts, the electricity discounts, and the CINSF reduction. This support has helped over 4,000 employees, and over 400 businesses.

We believe that it is this support that has kept our businesses afloat, staff employed and has ensured that you have all had a merry Christmas. I want now to provide an update our economy and about the extended support that we are going to provide under the third phase of the Economic Response Plan.

Half-Year update & border reopening

In the Half-Year Economic and Fiscal Update published a week ago, the Government updated its economic forecasts. There were many large numbers included which reflect the unprecedented nature of these times. The key thing that I took away from the numbers is that the extraordinary Government financial assistance to households and businesses is working as far as it can, now we look forward to the borders reopening so that the private sector can lead our recovery.

The Government is undertaking a great deal of work to ensure that we are ready to open to visitors from New Zealand only, by March – we are redesigning the airport to allow for safe distancing of arriving and departing passengers and purchasing new testing equipment which will allow for processing of larger numbers. We have already upgraded the hospital to ensure that we have the capacity to care for COVID-19 patients, including with the appropriate ventilators, and we are awaiting the arrival of a CT scanner.

I know that there is some fear in the community, but I want to once again reassure you that the Government is committed to a safe re-opening of the borders. Government is undertaking the proper risk analysis and is putting the necessary measures in place to minimise risk. Once borders reopen to New Zealand, businesses will also play a key role in keeping us COVID safe, by implementing and following the rules – including using CookSafe.

Our latest economic forecasts assume that borders will reopen at the end of March, with tourists returning from April, slowly at first, starting with New Zealand visitors. Given the gradual start and acknowledging the hardship that this extended border closure will cause for businesses, the Government has developed a third package of support for businesses and workers.

ERP Phase III

This additional support will largely be funded from the Government’s current budget appropriation. Government is doing its absolute best to reprioritise our expenditure as required, adapting as needed, and to limit having to take on additional debt.

Phase 3 of the Economic Response Plan will include a number of measures.

We will be extending the wage subsidy until April 2021. This will give businesses and their staff much needed wage support until visitors start arriving on our shores.

We will be introducing a new business grant scheme. This will provide additional cashflow support to help keep businesses afloat and prepare for the reopening of our borders. There will be two grant payments, in February and April. The wage subsidy criteria will apply, with grant amounts ranging from $2,500 to $15,000 depending on the size of your business and number of employees.

The value of the sole trader grant scheduled for January 2021 will also be increased, from $2,000 to $3,000.

The Government will continue the popular Fees Free initiative for those students that are in the process of completing a certificate or diploma. This will allow those students that commenced their studies in July to continue with our support.

In response to concerns from businesses operators regarding difficulties in employing and/or transferring foreign employees, the Government will temporarily put on hold the requirement to pay the transfer bond. This will apply only to those businesses who have a history of meeting immigration and employment requirements.

We will also extend the reduction in the superannuation rates at the same level as previously announced. This extension will run until March 2021.

The electricity discount being received by households and businesses will similarly be extended until March 2021.

The finer detail of the Phase 3 measures will be published on the MFEM website in early January.

Conclusion

I acknowledge that some businesses will feel that this support is insufficient, while others will raise concerns about the Government’s fiscal sustainability. We are doing our best to manage the fine balance between supporting our economy, which requires additional expenditure, and ensuring that our debt does not become unsustainable.

With 2020 in our rearview mirror, I would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone – businesses, employees, industry organisations, and our people, the Cook Islands community, for working in partnership with the Government in getting us through an unbelievable 2020.

Fighting an unknown force on both health and economic fronts has not been easy. I am sure you will also join me in saluting the many public servants, across many agencies, and the private sector who have been working tirelessly since COVID-19 first entered our vocabulary, to keep us safe and to keep the wheels of our economy turning.

Thank you everybody, you can be happy that we all did our part.

Happy New Year.

KIA ORANA E KIA MANUIA

 

Karere Kiritimi a te Parai Minita

24 Titema 2020, RAROTONGA KUKI AIRANI 

KIA ORANA KOTOU KATOATOA,

E mataiti tuke tikai teia mataiti 2020. Kare no tatou ua i roto nei i to tatou parataito meangiti, mari ra no teia nei ao katoatoa.

Noatu e, e aka manuia tikai to tatou, e ko tatou tetai nga iti ua o te au basileia, kia akapapu i tetai maki coviti okotai, kare ra tatou i ora tikai i teia maki. Te mamae katoa nei tatou pouroa, i te arapaki-anga a teia manumanu, i te au tangata tatakitai, e pera te basileia katoatoa. E arapaki-anga maata tikai tana.

Kua kite au e, kare paa teia e rauka kia karanga-ia, e karere Kiritimi tei matau ia, inara, i tetai taingauru marua marama i topa ake nei, kare e tangata e rauka i te tamanako i teia mataiti ta tatou i aere mai ana.

Kua tae mai te Kiritimiti kia tatou, e mei te au Kirisitiano takapini ake i teia nei ao, ka tamataora tatou i teia, ko tetai maire-anga tapu roatu teia a te au tangata irinaki Kirisitiano. I te mea e kua rauka ia tatou i te rave i tetai angaanga mei te Tarekareka Kuki Airani, ma te kore e arai-anga, e ka tamataora tatou i te Kiritimiti e te Mataiti Ou ma te kore e ture-anga, kare tetai pae takapini ake i teia nei ao i manuia mei teia. E pera katoa, me tamataora koe, akamaara ia ratou te ka angaanga i te ra o te Kiritimiti, to tatou au taote, to tatou au neti, to tatou au Akava, to tatou au tiaki, e ratou tei angaanga ma te kore e tutaki, ei paruru ia tatou te ka tamataora. Oronga atu i tetai pure akameitaki no ratou.

Kua tuatua ana au, e ka tuatua akaou au, e basileia akameitaki ia tatou.

Kia mataora i teia Kiritimiti ma te au, e to kotou au kopu tangata e te au taeake, e pera akara atu ia ratou kare e taeake, e kare i manuia roa mei iakoe rae. No tetai pae tangata, ko te Kiritimiti e te tuatau tamataora, e tuatau ngere e te taitaia teia. No reira aere atu aroa Kiritimiti ia toou taeake i te pae mai iakoe.

Akamaara, tei roto tatou katoatoa i teia. E akapapu tatou e, kia noo okotai rae tatou na roto i teia tuatau.

I teia atianga i te mataiti i topa, kare o tatou manako-anga eaa ta te mataiti 2020 ka apai mai, e te vai kitea-kore ia nei rae te mataiti 2021.

Ko taku ka taputou kia kotou, koia oki, ka tauta pakari uatu rae ta kotou kavamani i te paruru i to tatou iti tangata, e na roto i teia, ka akapapu matou e kare roa tetai o te matakeinanga e akaruke ia ki muri.

Kua riro mai au ei Parai Minita no kotou i nga marama uake nei i topa, te tuatau katoa i riro mai ei au ei tupuna tane. No reira, ka inangaro au e toku kopu tangata, e taku pepe, i te oronga atu kia kotou katoatoa, ta matou aroa Kiritimiti e te Mataiti Ou.

KIA ORANA E KIA MANUIA.

 

Prime Minister’s Christmas Message

24 DECEMBER 2020, RAROTONGA COOK ISLANDS

KIA ORANA KOTOU KATOATOA,

2020 has been an incredible year. Not just for us in our little paradise, but for the entire world.

While we are very fortunate and remain one of only a handful of country’s that have yet to record a single case of the virus, we have not been spared. We are all suffering from the effects of the virus, both personally and as a country. Its impact has been enormous.

I know this is not what you might call a traditional Christmas message, but, twelve months ago no one would have predicted the year we’ve just been through. Christmas is upon us, and like Christians around the world we will be celebrating this, one of Christianities most sacred festivals.

While we can hold events like the Cook Islands Games without any restrictions, and we will celebrate Christmas and New Years so freely, others around the world are not so lucky. Enjoy our freedom, others around the world cannot. And while you enjoy, remember those that work on Christmas day, our doctors, our nurses, our Police, our wardens, and those that volunteer to keep us safe while we enjoy. Say a prayer of thanks for them.

I have said it before and I say it again, We are truly blessed as a country.

Please enjoy Christmas safely with your family and your friends; and please also be aware and watch out for people who may be alone and less fortunate than you. For some people Christmas and the festive season can be a time of poverty, loneliness and unhappiness. So go and say Merry Christmas to your neighbour.

Remember that we are in this together. Lets make sure we stay together all the way through.

At this time last year we were expecting a big year in 2020, well, 2021 still remains a mystery.

My promise to you is that your government will do it’s best to keep our people safe, and while doing that, we will also make sure that no one in the tribe is left behind.

I became your Prime Minister only a few months ago, the same time that I became a grandfather. On behalf of my wife Daphne, my family, my baby and myself, I would like to wish everyone a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

KIA ORANA E KIA MANUIA.

 

COOK ISLANDS AND NEW ZEALAND AGREE NEXT STEPS TOWARDS QUARANTINE-FREE TRAVEL

11 DECEMBER 2020, RAROTONGA COOK ISLANDS

Press Release – PM statement on QFT 11.12.2020.docx

Following a joint release earlier this morning with New Zealand Prime Minister Rt. Hon Jacinda Ardern, Prime Minister Hon Mark Brown welcomed New Zealand’s commitment for the removal of mandatory quarantine for Cook Islands arrivals into New Zealand. Both governments will confirm the timing for when removal of mandatory quarantine will take effect early next week.

Prime Minister Brown said “We welcome the commitment of New Zealand for the removal of mandatory quarantine for Cook Islands arrivals into New Zealand as a first step in a phased approach to the full resumption of two-way quarantine free travel (QFT) between our countries.

The health and wellbeing of our people remains our foremost priority, and this interim arrangement enables us to ensure that those in need of non-critical but still urgent medical treatment and those who serve in our judicial and education sectors are able to do so without the stress and cost of quarantine”.

“Socially and economically, it is vitally important that we move meticulously, but at pace, to enable our people and businesses to regain some form of normality and confidence in their lives and businesses. We are fortunate that New Zealand has all but eliminated the virus, and for this we are grateful.

“The Ministry of Finance and Economic Management is now developing Phase 3 of the Economic Response Plan (ERP) to continue support to businesses and employees and I will be able to update the general public on ERP 3 towards the end of this month” he said.

Prime Minister Brown stated “In the coming weeks, Cook Islands officials will provide insights into the recent technical exchange of officials between the two countries; QFT

readiness work; and agreed further areas to be progressed such as testing capabilities, contact tracing and contingency planning and resourcing. A comprehensive communication strategy will be implemented to inform the Cook Islands community on border requirements and the Cook Islands readiness relating to health infrastructure and the industry.”

The work of officials will continue through the Christmas period with both governments working to a timeframe of the first quarter in 2021 to operationalise full two-way quarantine free travel between New Zealand and the Cook Islands.

ENDS.

Cook Islands Tourism Industry Awards – Speech Notes 

15th DECEMBER 2020, RAROTONGA COOK ISLANDS

Kia Orana kotou katoatoa,

It is a great pleasure to be invited to speak at the 2020 Air New Zealand Cook Islands Tourism Awards.

Industry resilience and the Economic Response Plan

From the outset may I just say that 2020 has been an incredible year. I think that just holding the Tourism Awards is just about the gutsiest thing that the tourism industry could have done. You deserve a big congratulations and pat on the back. These awards are about you the industry saying to COVID 19 – you may have devastated our year but stuff you we are still going to recognise our hard work and put on a show. Well done!! The staging of this prestigious tourism awards tonight exemplifies your resilience to stay together as an industry. I am immensely proud of our tourism industry and grateful for the strength you have shown during this time of crisis. I am proud of your dedication to your employees and participating in the essential training to protect us from COVID-19. AND I acknowledge the many adjustments you have made to your finances, your capital, and the technology platforms to adapt to our current landscape.

May I also pay my respects and acknowledge the hardship felt by our tourism operators in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic. It is an unprecedented challenge to both our public health systems and our national economies. The dramatic standstill of our Tourism sector cannot JUST be measured in GDP and financial security alone, but also by the profound knock-on effect on the livelihoods and social well-being of our people. I would also like to make special acknowledgment of the late Sue Fletcher-Vea, tonight’s Awards Ceremony is dedicated to her outstanding leadership in the tourism industry and the legacy she has left for us all.

Since its inception in 1973, our tourism journey has never been put to the test on such a large scale, and no country has been left unscathed by the pandemic. But the Cook Islands Tourism Industry is one that is attuned to economic shocks and health threats. We have taken knocks before and we have bounced back. As an industry and as a country, we will persevere and become stronger on the other side. Of that I have no doubt!

I am pleased that most tourism operators have applied for assistance through the Economic Response Plan for business financing and wage and training subsidies. The retention of staff is key to our recovery and will enable us to get back into business quicker and more efficiently. You will be aware of our recent announcement on adjustments to the wage subsidy, and we remain committed in supporting you during this period.

While this assistance is aiding the survival of the industry through these tough times, it will nevertheless take a number of years for businesses to rebuild the capital and retained earnings lost as a consequence of the pandemic.

This is where our Economic Development Strategy 2020-30 plays a vital role in setting a clear vision for our future development. It is important that we overcome address both the challenges and opportunities we face to move to a more dynamic, prosperous, and inclusive economic future. I will talk a bit about this later.

I call on you for your united support and continued strength while our Government work at pace with the NZ government to safely recommence two-way quarantine-free travel between the Cook Islands and New Zealand in the first quarter of 2021.

Tourism Recovery + Quarantine Free Travel Arrangement

Let me emphasise that the health and and wellbeing of our people remains our foremost priority. The Cook Islands has pursued a strategy of exclusion in keeping the virus out. NZ has pursued the strategy of elimination of which has been highly successful by being aggressive in their lockdowns. Both strategies have the same goal that is to have no community transmission. If this can be maintained as we have done so for the last 9 months then there is a way that travel can safely commence between two community-transmission free countries.

There is no question that our tourism industry is hit hardest by the pandemic, but it is also the heart of our recovery corridor. The revival of our tourism will be incremental, starting with the first step in a phased approach to allow our people to travel to New Zealand without the need to enter managed isolation.

This arrangement will allow our people in need of non-critical but urgent medical treatment to travel to New Zealand. This will also allow students now needing to make travel arrangements to attend university or higher education. Our judiciary is hopelessly backlogged by a year’s worth of court cases that require judge and jury trials and need this one-way travel to begin urgently. We hope to have the commencement date announced very soon.

The second step is the opening of our border to visitors from New Zealand. The immediate task is to conclude the Quarantine-Free Travel agreement between our respective Governments for implementation in the first quarter of 2021. Both Governments have invested extensively in the preparatory work since July this year and accelerated dialogue in recent weeks. The shared confidence by both Governments in the systems, procedures and readiness is crucial for this arrangement. Our officials will provide further insights through a comprehensive communication strategy in the coming weeks; relating to the health infrastructure, border preparedness and contingency planning.

I anticipate this will be followed by similar arrangements with Australia in 2021 with resumption of any significant visitor traffic from the Northern Hemisphere not anticipated until at least 2022. A joint commitment with New Zealand on a vaccine response to include immunisation in the first quarter of 2021, will determine our marketing strategy to these key markets.

Sustainability and Cook Islands Tourism future priorities

We entered this year of 2020 with the expectation of a bumper year. And all the signals were pointing that way…right up until mid-March. And then our tourism literally stopped. Some may not know this but the government through the Ministry of Finance had embarked on work for an Economic Development Strategy. This was something that we started last year…. with, for the first time MFEM senior management going to the all the outer islands to talk to our people, to gauge their thoughts, to see for themselves the challenges of Pa Enua life. But mainly to help us set a path for continued prosperity because at that time in November last year we were on the back of over 7 years of significant economic growth and income, we were on the verge of graduating to a developed nation status according to the OECD, our country was embarking on significant infrastructure development including sealing our Pa Enua runways. The pandemic turned all of this upside down.

Instead of now developing an Economic Development Strategy on the basis of growth and prosperity and increased revenue we are now doing exactly the same thing on the basis of increased debt and uncertainly. However, this pandemic has presented us with a prime opportunity to reassess our priorities. It is not all bad news – both the public and private sector have invested in key infrastructure that are pertinent for our economic development. There is renewed interest in economic diversification. We have positioned ourselves well to pivot and engage as the tourism industry emerges from its global battering. And hey we also have our very first Cook Islands local appointed as Cook Islands Country manager for Air New Zealand, Congratulations Addy. Things are looking up. All of the things we have done to date provides a sound base from which we can recover and transform our economy. Tourism has been the financial mainstay of the Cook Islands economy for a number of decades and will continue to sustain the development aspirations of Cook Islanders into the future. Experience from 9/11 and the Global Financial Crisis indicates that the global appetite for leisure travel will return strongly again once the trust and confidence to travel safely is restored.

It is already evident that tomorrow’s traveller is intrepid and will be more environmentally conscious, while seeking new experiences that highlight our unique culture. The heightened advocacy for tourism during this time will be centred on the principle of sustainability, which will bring new niche markets. And I only have to look at the Air Raro initiative for the northern group tours as an example.

Quality assurance is a significant component of tourism sustainability as it reduces the negative impacts to cultural heritage and the environment, while maximising social and economic benefits to the local community. We must continue to assess our products and services to ensure they are authentic and meaningful. The credibility of our product will add significant value to our visitors and international partners.

Our challenge is to position the Cook Islands visitor offering to meet these expectations and re-define our place in the future of international visitor travel post Covid-19. Through the Cook Islands Tourism Corporation, our Government is rapidly addressing these new realities with strategies to re-launch the destination once COVID-19 is contained and traveller confidence returns.

This include the implementation of the Cook Islands Promise and the Kia Orana Plus Training and will be followed by the newly revamped tourism accreditation scheme to be launched in early 2021. Cook Islands Tourism continues to lead digital destination marketing in our region, enabled through capacity building in digital innovation and artificial intelligence tools to enhance our visitors’ experience.

Conclusion

It has taken us 9 months, but we can now see light on the horizon. I urge us all to look forward with optimism, I can guarantee you it will be challenging. We are all in this together, we can only get through it together. Again, I congratulate the Cook Islands Tourism Industry Council for delivering this outstanding event and not allow the COVID-19 disruptions to curb your enthusiasm. I acknowledge the efforts of sponsors, assessors, judges and administers – for making this happen.

I congratulate all the applicants, nominees, and winners tonight who acknowledge the importance of meeting quality standards for the development of our industry and the positioning of the Cook Islands as a renowned destination. It is ‘a step in the green direction’.

May you all enjoy tonight’s celebrations with your peers, and I wish you all a fantastic festive season with your friends and families.

Kia orana e kia manuia.

 

PRIME MINISTER’S ADDRESS TO COOK ISLANDS LEGACY – NATIONAL SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT AGENDA 2020+

THURSDAY 3 DECEMBER 2020, RAROTONGA COOK ISLANDS

Kia Orana, Turou oro mai,

I am glad to see you all here today, helping to build our Cook Islands legacy – upon that of our Tupuna.

It was only in July we launched the consultation phase of the Cook Islands National Sustainable Development Agenda 2020+. Since then our NSDA2020+ team has had over 60 different consultations with interested groups. And there is still more to come.

The Cook Islands NSDA2020+ follows on from Te Kaveinga Nui 2016 – 2020 which has given us five years of guidance, action, learning and achievements.

Having met with over 60 different groups to learn what wellbeing means for different people and the different ways that we can get there, has resulted in today. You’ll be presented with different stages of where we are at, further seeking your guidance.

Some people will comment – we always seem to be planning!! That is because the last plan of 2016 to 2020 is now part of history. And history tells us that failing to plan is planning to fail. And also today there are those were not around to be part of the last 5 year plan but they are, you are here now, this is your chance to be part of deciding what we should look like 5 years 25 years 100 years from now. And although we have a vision of what we want – the journey to get to where you want can be just as if not more important and fulfilling. Because on a journey there is discovery that will open your eyes, there are challenges that will build your character, there are obstacles that will test your strength. So let the vision be your guiding star but let the journey define who you are.

What an incredible year 2020 has been. From the highs of our graduation on January the 1st to the lows of a zero tourism industry that has lasted for 9 months now. All of the plans by the private sector and the public sector have been turned upside down. What was expected to be a record year of growth and economic prosperity has instead been a record year for loss of income and negative growth. What was to have been an increase in our national cash reserves is now an increase in our debt.

But that is the nature of plans, understanding that things can change in a moment. How we respond to that change is critical to our survival. Someone once said “When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.” That is the challenge we have as a country but it is also the challenge we have as individuals.

“We must take personal responsibility. We cannot change the circumstances we are in, just like we cannot change the seasons, or the wind, but you can change yourself. We can choose how we react. That is something we are in charge of.”

At the regional and national level, for us in the Pacific, our isolation has become a blessing as many of our Pacific islands remain COVID free, or with small managed numbers.

We are both grateful and humbled to still be COVID-19 free in the face of this global tragedy.

We’ve struggled this year, and we have triumphed. Hardship has been felt by many in many different ways, yet we must remain resilient. We must remain resilient in the face of protest and criticism, we must remain resilient in the face of others trying to belittle us, we must remain resilient to those who seek to tear us down even as we try to do good.

We know better days are coming.

We’re going to use this moment we have now, to build a better legacy for our children and our future generations. While a 100-year vision may feel like a challenge, we must ask ourselves – “Why not? Why can’t we aim for the best for our Cook Islands people, and then set about working together to achieve it?”

Collectively, we can accomplish anything we set our minds to – snippets from our history shows us so.

For the first time in 50 years, the Pa Enua has 24-hour electricity as we shift from fossil fuel dependency to renewable energy for electricity in the Pa Enua and then to Rarotonga. Our people now have more money in their pockets with an improvement in our social welfare and tax system to reduce inequality and improve equity and we have done our best to combat COVID-19 through the Economic Response Plan. This reflects our preparedness and the sound fiscal regime which we have implemented over the years.

Today marks International Day of Disabled Persons and in line with our theme of inclusiveness it’s important that we all contribute to our Legacy and get all sectors of our Society involved- The commitment to realizing the rights of people in our country is not only a matter of justice; it is an investment in a common future.

We now look ahead as we build our Cook Islands legacy of wellbeing, remembering that our spirit as a Cook Islands people plays a huge role in the building of our national morale.

The hugely successful Cook Islands Games is an example of this, our national sporting event that brought people together for a single cause, and ignited our Kia Orana spirit.

Feel free to draw upon thoughts today that are outside the box and innovative. We can look creatively and collectively upon different facets of our wellbeing such as social, economic, cultural, educational, health-related, and our governance.

There is a verse that I have used before in speaking to you about our plans and visions. It comes from Jeremiah 29:11

“For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.”

We’re here today to build our collective future so be bold.

Let’s bring about our Cook Islands legacy of wellbeing.

Let’s lift each other up and empower our nation to achieve this.

Kia Manuia

ENDS:

Jaewynn McKay +682 55486; jaewynn.mckay@wovenpacific.com

 

PRIME MINISTER WELCOMED AS MINISTER OF POLICE WITHSPECIAL PARADE – Speech Notes

27 NOVEMBER 2020, RAROTONGA COOK ISLANDS 

Kia Orana

Acting Commissioner, Deputy Commissioner Aka Matapo; the Commanders of the Police Leadership team, and Heads of Divisions; Maritime Surveillance Adviser Lt Commander Mark Te Kani; and all the Officers and staff of the National Police Service – kia orana.

Special kia orana to the former Commissioner Maara Tetava.

Thank you for the very warm welcome. It is a pleasure to join you this morning and be received with the honour of a special parade, as your Prime Minister and Minister. It is the first time in my life to be welcomed by a formal parade – I certainly did not get one from Parliament when I was appointed PM!

As you know, the successful transition of leadership is something I am very familiar with. The advent of change is a process one must prepare for, get accustomed to, and fulfil to the best of one’s ability. I can assure you that change is not always easy.

While no one can guarantee that change, especially to the extent of leadership, will be without some difficulty, I can encourage you to focus on the positives. Because there are many.

To start with, change is opportunity, it is not about loss. It is not finality; it is about growth. And it is not to put things back, it is about going forward. It is not about doing things the same it is about doing things better.

You know, we have all heard that saying “when one door closes, another one opens”. It is true. We are all living examples of how we move through life like that. Opportunity, growth, progress. Those are the motivating principles that can speak to our call of duty whether it is in political life or in the service of your community as Police Officers.

I am pleased to say that your former Commissioner Maara is part of that process because we have not turned our back on how important our Human Resources are to our country. I have recently sanctioned his appointment as our National Security Director – to ensure his institutional knowledge and skills will continue to provide us the best possible solutions and policy advice at the highest levels. Congratulations Maara!

To Deputy Commissioner Matapo and your leadership team, I can assure you that as your Prime Minister and Minister, there shall continue to be the highest priority placed on the integrity of the Police Service and its role in the safety and security of our community.

I know that there have been times of budgetary stress, and pressures associated with Police resources. Doing the best, you can with what you have got has been an ongoing constraint, as well as financial issues over remuneration levels.

And since we’ve been under the influence of COVID for most of this year, there has been a lingering uncertainty over how soon we can expect to get back on track with delivering on the resources where you need it most. But we will get there.

Looking ahead, change will come – but not at the expense of your standing or your ability to fulfil your solemn Oath. I have every confidence in your commitment to duty and that moving forward will be a team effort. You have my support. You have my encouragement.

Part of Maara’s legacy is the challenge that has been passed to you to sustain that commitment you have already shown under his leadership. So, honour that. Hold firm and keep that solidarity. Support each other and step up to the challenges whenever they come.

Because they will come. But with your community behind you, and the right leadership in front of you, we will meet those challenges together.

Kia Orana e Kia Manuia

ENDS;

Jaewynn McKay +682 55486; jaewynn.mckay@wovenpacific.com

 

Building our Cook Islands Legacy together

27 NOVEMBER 2020, RAROTONGA, COOK ISLANDS

MR – Building our CI legacy together

All Cook Islanders are invited to help build our Cook Islands Legacy during a national forum to develop our Cook Islands National Sustainable Development Agenda 2020+ on Thursday.

Since the launch of the Cook Islands NSDA2020+ Consultations, Cook Islanders have taken up the challenge to help strengthen our Cook Islands legacy. 

More than sixty consultations have taken place over the last five months as Cook Islands residents have shared their thoughts on where the Cook Islands should be as a nation, and how we should get there.

The Cook Islands NSDA2020+ will be the guiding blueprint for the Cook Islands as it works towards achieving the vision of wellbeing.  The NSDA2020+ follows on from the Cook Islands National Sustainable Development Plan – Te Kaveinga Nui 2016 – 2020.

This Thursday the “Our Cook Islands Legacy NSDA2020+ Forum” will seek further input upon some of what has been collated thus far.

“We’ve been encouraged by the wide range of voices and input we have recorded over the past months as people have told us their vision for our Cook Islands,” said Ms Valentino Wichman, Director of Central Policy and Planning Office of the Office of the Prime Minister.

“Our People are at the core of our NSDA2020+, the thoughts and ideas that have been shared with us are the strands of our national document, woven together in strength, like our Cook Islands ka’a.  We look forward to more that comes.”

The Our Cook Islands Legacy NSDA2020+ Forum is just one of several more consultations to continue over early next year across Rarotonga and some of the Pa Enua.  Outcomes of consultations held to date have been shared with Te Vairanga Kite Pakari, the Cook Islands Research Association, to help develop the foundation of the NSDA2020+.

It is proposed the NSDA2020+ be ready for endorsement in April next year.

This Thursday Our Legacy Cook Islands Forum will see a range of activities take place.  The second of the Korero Mai Debate Series will take place, followed by a range of wellbeing activities for all to help build our Cook Islands legacy.

“The Forum will be a half day journey through our Cook Islands wellbeing – we are ensuring the five key aspects of wellbeing are interwoven within our Forum those being physical, intellectual, spiritual, emotional and social,” said Ms Wichman.

“We’re asking people to input into our vision, the life cycle of a Cook Islander for wellbeing and to hear their thoughts about our draft targets we have to date.   Everyone is welcome to join us and take part – bring your ideas and be ready to have an enjoyable time.”

The Our Legacy Cook Islands NSDA2020+ Forum is held on Thursday 3 December 2020 – World Disability Day, from 9am to 12pm at the Cook Islands National Auditorium Domes. 

 

Researching to build our Cook Islands legacy

9 NOVEMBER 2020, RAROTONGA, COOK ISLANDS

CINSDA2020Plus_MR_091120

Contributions and discussions from almost 55 consultation sessions on the Cook Islands National Sustainable Development Agenda 2020+ are now being reviewed by Te Vairanga Kite Pakari (TVKP) – a Cook Islands Research Association.

The Cook Islands National Sustainable Development Agenda 2020+ (NSDA2020+) is the national blueprint that will guide the Cook Islands towards a 100-year vision of wellbeing.  It follows from the Te Kaveinga Nui 2016 – 2020. 

To ensure strong Cook Islands ownership of the NSDA2020+, a wide range of consultations have been ongoing since August.  The outcomes of these discussions are now undergoing review by TVKP to help establish the NSDA2020+.

“As much as possible, we are making sure that every voice heard is being reflected in our national document which will build our Cook Islands legacy,” said Valentino Wichman, Director of Central Policy and Planning of the Office of the Prime Minister.

“Having a national vision, framework and strategy is one thing.  Putting this into action is another, and that is what we are striving for – a robust framework and strategy which sees us all collectively owning it and working together to make it happen.  Ownership plays a key role.”

TVKP are helping to ensure the robust legacy developed is built upon the evidence which frames the issues and challenges.  To do so the research methodology used is a mix of the scanning methodology with Ka’a as the central metaphor for the process.

This will see TVKP scan and review content from the consultations, literature, media, research and other publications.   The research methodology through the Ka’a represents a united, collective approach and Papa’anga will apply this across the range of generations to form our legacy.

Once all content has been reviewed and assessed it will result in the top challenges the Cook Islands must address to achieve the vision of wellbeing.  These will be finalised in a report that will support the NSDA2020+ framework.

“Research is an important part of developing our Cook Islands legacy, for example consultations may have issues raised based upon what people know – yet research may show that these aren’t actually issues,” said Ms Wichman.

“Or research will provide the evidence to support the issues raised by people and show that they are vital for us to include and address in our NSDA2020+ for our Cook Islands wellbeing.  There is a vast amount of research to be undertaken in this next stage.”

The NSDA2020+ has undergone a wide consultation process which still continues.  If you are interested in having your voice heard please contact the CPPO Office of the OPM or visit the OPM website or CINSDA 2020+ Facebook page.  Opportunities to input and share thoughts and ideas are made available on these sites.

It is hoped the NSDA2020+ will be ready for endorsement by April 2021.  It will consist of a 100-year vision that has 25 Uki frameworks to span a generation and 5-year scorecards to help monitor and evaluate progress.

For further information or queries please visit www.pmoffice.gov.ck or https://www.facebook.com/NSDA2020Plus on Facebook, or email Ms Valentino Wichman at valentino.wichman@cookislands.gov.ck

 

PRIME MINISTER PAYS TRIBUTE – ARMISTICE DAY 2020

11 NOVEMBER 2020, RAROTONGA COOK ISLANDS 

Prime Minister – Mark Brown – will this morning attend the 102nd Armistice Day commemoration at the Cook Islands Returned Services Association Memorial Cemetry.

“Today is the day, engraved in the history of the world as the day the ‘Great War’ – World War 1 – came to an end. It took effect at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month in 1918.

“The ‘war to end all wars’ as it was often called, resulted in an estimated 38-million casualties – military and civilians – around the world.

“Over 100-thousand New Zealanders – soldiers and nurses – served in the Great War with 16.697 of them killed, and 41,317 wounded. The New Zealand forces included soldiers from the Cook Islands, Niue, and Samoa. Worth noting that New Zealand’s population at the time was just over a million.

“Nobody ever wins out of a war, because even when you think you’ve won you haven’t, along the way lives, often many many lives will have been lost.

“Cook Islanders have served in both of the world wars. When World War One broke out some of our men wanted to do their bit and they went off to New Zealand to sign up.

“They did it again in World War Two and often ended up in the 28th Battalion – the Maori Battalion. Not all of our men who went away served in the army though, one of my grand uncles – my grandfather’s youngest brother Alexander Brown, left Mangaia as a teenager and headed off to New Zealand to school. When the war broke out he checked out of school and signed up for the air force and was sent to Canada where he underwent his training before taking part in bombing missions over Germany. He was an air gunner.

“Sadly, he was one of the 20,000 air crew who lost their lives in the air war in Europe.

“So today, while we are thinking of the end of World War 1 and paying tribute to all those who lost their lives serving in those early conflicts, I will also be thinking about my uncle Alex who I never knew. And with his tragic loss my family and I have almost certainly lost other uncles and aunties and cousins he may have provided our family with.

“So rest in peace uncle Alex, we haven’t forgotten you and all your mates and our other relatives who served in both World Wars, whether out of a sense of duty or just for the adventure as it was to so many of you.

“I cannot conclude my tribute any better than by referring to the Ode of Remembrance:

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:

Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.

At the going down of the sun and in the morning,

We will remember them.

I do remember them.”

ENDS: Enquiries to Jaewynn McKay +682 55486; jaewynn.mckay@wovenpacific.com

 

PRIME MINISTER CONGRATULATES PRESIDENT ELECT JOE BIDEN AND VICE-PRESIDENT ELECT KAMALA HARRIS

7 NOVEMBER 2020, RAROTONGA COOK ISLANDS 

Prime Minister – Mark Brown – has congratulated the new President and Vice President elect of the United States of America, on winning the 2020 elections.

“Like the rest of the world, we here in a distant corner of the South Pacific Ocean, were glued to our TV sets, watching the polls unfold. We have admired President Elect Biden’s patience and calming comments encouraging the votes of the people to be counted, including those that cast advance and postal votes, they all represent people who exercised their democratic rights, and are not just numbers.”

“Once the election result was called in his favour, we watched with admiration the unifying addresses given by Vice-President elect – Kamala Harris – and President Elect Biden, they were inspirational to the American people and many admirers internationally.”

“We in the Cook Islands, while being predominantly Polynesian, have more than a dozen different ethnicities from around the world living here in harmony; and we have watched with interest his aspirational choice of vice-president running mate, and today we can only admire the many compliments made about that choice.”

“Like many countries around the world we have watched with concern the divisions that have occurred in American society, and the way in which America has appeared to distance itself from traditional allies. We are a small country but we welcome the voice of unity and co-operation that President elect Biden has adopted, and we look forward to contributing in whatever way we can to enhance that approach.

Kia manuia, meitaki maata.

ENDS: Enquiries to Jaewynn McKay +682 55486; jaewynn.mckay@wovenpacific.com

 

PRIME MINISTER PAYS TRIBUTE TO FORMER PRIME MINISTER HON JIM MARURAI

5 NOVEMBER, 2020 RAROTONGA COOK ISLANDS

“Today we mourn the passing of our former Prime Minister Jim Marurai on his beloved island of A’ua’u Enua – Mangaia” said Prime Minister Mark Brown a short time ago.

Jim Marurai was born in July 1947 on Mangaia and went on to become one of that Island’s favourite sons.

He grew up in the village of Ivirua and his schooling began at Oneroa Primary. Education and politics became the pillars of his later life. From Oneroa he came to Rarotonga to Tereora College to begin his secondary education, before moving on to Napier Boy’s High School in New Zealand and Otago University.

His political life began when he was elected to the Cook Islands Parliament in a byelection in 1994 serving as an opposition back bencher until after the 1999 general election when his two careers – teaching and politics – merged; when he was appointed Minister of Education. He served in that role in various coalition Cabinets led by former Prime Ministers Sir Geoffrey Henry and Dr Joe Williams.

From December 2004 until November 2010 he was Prime Minister of the Cook Islands, leading a series of governing coalitions among the various political parties.

“Today I acknowledge his term as our nation’s leader and the achievements of his government,” said Prime Minister Mark Brown speaking from Rarotonga.

“On behalf of the people and the Government of the Cook Islands we mourn his passing and salute ‘Gentleman Jim’, a man for the people, one who was extremely proud of his humble beginnings and enjoyed great loyalty from his people of Ivirua, who all told, elected him to Parliament for 20 years.”

Jim Marurai finally stepped down in 2017 because of ill health, his wife Tuaine predeceased him in 2005.

Prime Minister Brown is leading a delegation of mourners to Mangaia today to attend Mr Marurai’s funeral which is being held this afternoon. The delegation includes Numangatini Ariki, members of Mr Marurai’s family, the Leader of the Opposition and Cabinet and government colleagues.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with his family at this time of great loss” the Prime Minister concluded.

As a sign of respect the Prime Minister has asked that all government flags be flown at half-mast for the rest of the week.

ENDS: Enquiries to Jaewynn McKay +682 55486; jaewynn.mckay@wovenpacific.com

PRIME MINISTER CONGRATULATES NEW ZEALAND’S NEWEST COOK ISLANDS CABINET MINISTER

1 NOVEMBER 2020, RAROTONGA COOK ISLANDS

Prime Minister Mark Brown sends his congratulations to New Zealand’s newest Cook Islands Cabinet Minister.

Prime Minister Ardern today announced her new Cabinet line-up which comprises 20 ministers, 6 ministers outside of Cabinet and 2 Parliamentary Under-Secretaries.

Hon Poto Williams (number 10 on the Cabinet rankings) today became Minister for Building and Construction, Police, Associate Minister for Children and Associate Minister of Housing.

Poto Williams was elected the member of parliament for Christchurch East when she won the by-election in 2013. She was re-elected in 2014, 2017 and again last month. Last year she was appointed a minister outside of Cabinet.

“I send my warmest congratulations to Poto and her anau. On behalf of the Cook Islands people I want to acknowledge Poto’s many achievements to date and to say how proud we are to call her one of us. Poto is no stranger to the Cook Islands and I look forward to her next visit and to forging a good working relationship with her in her capacity as Police minister – a portfolio I also hold.”

Prime Minister Brown aIso acknowledged and congratulated the three other Pasifika members of parliament with ministerial responsibilities – Hon Carmel Sepuloni, Hon Kris Faafoi and Hon Aupito William Sio.

“Having 10 Maori and Pasifika ministers in the New Zealand government for the first time is a wonderful opportunity and I wish them all well.”

ENDS: Enquiries to Jaewynn McKay +682 55486; jaewynn.mckay@wovenpacific.com

 

OFFICE OF THE PRIME MINISTER – HON MARK BROWN, GOVERNMENT OF THE COOK ISLANDS

MEDIA RELEASE

7 OCTOBER 2020, RAROTONGA COOK ISLANDS

Less than a week after Hon Mark Brown was sworn in as the twelfth Prime Minister of the Cook Islands, he has confirmed the portfolios for his Cabinet who were also sworn in by Queens Representative Sir Tom Marsters during the formal ceremony on the grounds of Government House last Wednesday.

The portfolio allocation was confirmed earlier today.

The Prime Minister will be responsible for the following portfolios: Finance and Economic Management; Seabed Minerals and Natural Resources; Cook Islands Investment Corporation; Financial Services Development Authority; Financial Supervisory Commission; Audit/ Public Expenditure Review Committee and Telecommunications;

Attorney General; Office of the Prime Minister; Energy and Renewable Energy; Outer Islands; Foreign Affairs and Immigration; Public Service Commission; Police; Marine Resources; Head of State and Cook Islands National Superannuation.

Deputy Prime Minister Robert Taipatau will be the Minister responsible for Transport; Infrastructure Cook Islands; National Environment Services and will also take responsibility for Outer Island Special Projects.

Hon Vainetutai Rose Toki-Brown has the portfolios of Agriculture, Justice, Health and Parliamentary Services.

Hon Vaine (Mac) Mokoroa has the Internal Affairs, Youth and Sports, Ombudsman and Education portfolios.

Hon George Angene is the Minister responsible for Corrective Services, Culture, House of Ariki and Punanga Nui.

And new Cabinet Minister Patrick Arioka has been allocated responsibility for Tourism and the Business Trade Investment Board.

There are three Associate Ministers:

Hon. Te Hani Brown is the Associate Minister Responsible for Internal Affairs and Health; Hon Albert Nicholas is the Associate Minister responsible for Cook Islands Investment Corporation and Hon Tingika Elikana is the Associate Minister responsible for Justice; Finance and Economic Management and Foreign Affairs and Immigration.

Prime Minister Brown is excited with the potential of his Cabinet and the portfolios they have been assigned. Where possible, the interests and skill set of Ministers have been aligned to their portfolios.

ENDS: Enquiries to Jaewynn McKay +682 55486; jaewynn.mckay@wovenpacific.com

Media Release

30 SEPTEMBER 2020, RAROTONGA COOK ISLANDS

A short time ago Hon Mark Brown was sworn in as the twelfth Prime Minister of the Cook Islands; the tenth individual to hold this office since the Cook Islands became self-governing in 1965.

Prime Minister Brown and his Cabinet took the Oath of Allegiance and were issued with their warrants during a formal ceremony on the grounds of Government House by the Queens Representative, Sir Tom Marsters this afternoon.

The new ministers who will be allocated with their portfolios in the coming days are:

Deputy Prime Minister Hon Robert Tapaitau; Hon Rose Toki-Brown; Hon Vaine (Mac) Mokoroa; Hon George Angene and incoming Minister Hon Patrick Arioka.

New Prime Minister, Mark Brown was first elected to Parliament in 2010, winning the Takuvaine Tutakimoa electorate and was immediately given the Finance portfolio. He was appointed Deputy Prime Minister after the 2018 election.

Raised and educated on Rarotonga, Mr Brown also spent a year at Gisborne Boys High School on scholarship and went on to Massey University, where he graduated with a Diploma in Public Sector Management. He also holds a Master’s in Business Administration from the University of the South Pacific. Mr Brown is fluent in both Cook Islands Maori and English.

Mr Brown’s career has incorporated roles in both the private and public sectors. A former policy advisor and secretary of the Ministry of Agriculture, a business owner and property developer Mr Brown has also held leadership positions in the Cook Islands Chamber of Commerce and as a keen sportsman served on the Cook Islands Sports and National Olympic Committee.

ENDS: Enquiries to Jaewynn McKay +682 55486; jaewynn.mckay@wovenpacific.com

 

VALEDICTORY ADDRESS FROM HON HENRY PUNA RESIGNING PRIME MINISTER OF THE COOK ISLANDS

30 SEPTEMBER 2020, RAROTONGA COOK ISLANDS

Kia Orana Madam Speaker, I rise to give my valedictory speech before relinquishing the high office of prime minister of our country. Greetings to you and all the Honourable Members of this House. Kia Orana to my colleagues in Cabinet and Government, and the Leader of the Opposition and her members.

To the Queen’s Representative Sir Tom Marsters and Lady Marsters, Presidents of the House of Ariki, and Koutu Nui, our Religious Advisory Council and all your respective church members, and everyone listening in to our session today, kia orana.

On 30 November 2010, exactly 3,591 days ago, I took the oath of office of prime minister of our little paradise, and had this to say then:

“Today, we do more than celebrate this important occasion, we rededicate ourselves to the high calling of our country and our people. So, let us begin this hard work today, and together, recognising that beneath all our differences, we are all one people. We are all Cook Islanders.”

Madam Speaker, my Government and I have always endeavored to live up to this ideal. Rededication, togetherness, oneness, despite our differences. I believe that we have manifested this spirit in many of our achievements. Solar energy for all of the outer islands; the appointment of qualified women as Heads of Ministries (8 out of 14); the passage of the Marae Moana Act without a single dissension in this House; and the comforting reality that our country is still COVID-19 free, largely because we are united in accepting that we are all in this together.

Madam Speaker, I’d like now to begin by extending very special greetings to the people of Manihiki – to the people of Tauhunu and Tukao; our sister villages that sit like pearls, in the palms of God’s outstretched hands. Manihiki is that special.

“Ooo….aa…tera paia o te Huru Avatea

Te tahirihiri ra i te Maru o Arai Ava

Kua hua…kua tata

I te maharahara i te Ahuatanga”

It has been my honour to represent the people of Manihiki in this House, and to represent them on the national stage of issues and concerns, as their Member of Parliament, as Prime Minister, and as leader of the Cook Islands.

To all my people, I thank you for your trust and support, in the realisation of what we have accomplished together during my time as your Member.

Our two harbour development projects, water tank rehabilitation, lagoon cleanup, solar power generation, and new airport terminal, together with the imminent sealing of our runway, have strengthened and will strengthen our lifeline to the outside world. These initiatives have helped prepare our island for further economic capacity-building, in the years ahead.

Madam Speaker, in presenting this valedictory address today, I also stand to honour our leaders of the past, including Dr. Robert Woonton, who before me, also served the people of Manihiki as MP, and as Prime Minister.

Dr. Woonton also faced the challenges of atoll isolation and constraints, balancing the competing interests of small village survival in the North, with centralised economic demands in the South.

For a Prime Minister, this can be an enormous force of pressure, and often at times, an uncomfortable task. Many times, I have had to tell my people, that as the metua of our nation, we needed to be patient and suppress our own needs, while we address the needs of others first. But the journey has been worth it.

The interests of Manihiki have stayed close to my heart, as has the need for our nation as a whole to recognise the unique conditions of those, who are living far from comforts and easy access to supermarkets and shops; to mechanics and engineers for vehicles, and an international airport; to restaurants and pubs; and to fully-equipped health centres and schools.

I pledged to serve the people of Manihiki as a parliamentarian, and the welfare of the island and its communities will stay with me in whatever role I can play for our people, and with whatever encouragement I can provide to our young leaders of the future.

As a younger man, I also looked to our leaders for encouragement and guidance. The late Sir Geoffrey Henry was one of those leaders, who provided support where it was needed.

Our party leader was renowned for recognising youthful potential and was often the encouraging force behind those who demonstrated the qualities and abilities to advance quickly. His foresight nurtured leaders of the future, a quality we should all uphold.

In fact, the landscape of political leadership was shaped greatly by Sir Geoffrey and our former Prime Ministers. And while the company of those men has since been depleted, we have had the benefit of an expanded blueprint, from which to build further because of them.

In their footsteps, we gained a stronger foundation for self-determination – a framework of governance, where the future is mapped by our own talents and foresight, and where the measures of success, as well as failure, are our own.

Madam Speaker, we stand stronger today because we’ve taken ownership of those past efforts, and will continue to do so, if we stand together.

The legacies of leadership will help us going forward, even as I stand here to pass the burdens of leadership onto the shoulders of your new Prime Minister. I have the utmost confidence that with each link in this chain of succession, the Cook Islands will continue to grow, with stability and resilience.

Over the past ten years, the rate of our growth and expansive development at home, has been partly fueled by a progressive building of relationships abroad.

Our revenues from export tourism dollars reached record highs over recent years, before the onset of COVID-19, and the driving force of our international diplomacy has rewarded us, with more fruitful development assistance from key partners.

Many of our domestic projects would not have been possible without face-to-face diplomatic interaction at the highest levels, meeting in foreign capitals around the world.

After all, Government business today is international business. And our place in the world’s affairs must be engaged at the levels we have now secured, for our future wellbeing.

As I leave office today, our international partnerships have doubled. The Cook Islands now enjoys formal diplomatic ties with 54 nations both within the Region and around the world. Many of those ties with countries such as New Zealand, Australia, Japan, South Korea, India, as well as the European Union, have brought immeasurable benefits, right through to our smallest communities.

Our graduation last year to a high income country, took effect at the beginning of this year, ironically arriving at a time of considerable progress and advancement, while on the cusp of having to prepare for the hugely negative impacts of the coronavirus pandemic.

Despite the looming challenges, our nation had the proven financial integrity to access important assistance from global mechanisms like the Green Climate Fund, and had our resilience further strengthened, by linking into the Pacific fund established for insurance against disasters.

I digress at this point to acknowledge the wonderful efforts of our officials at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Immigration. They have worked tirelessly including travelling endlessly to expand our diplomatic footprint. So, to Tepaeru Herman and your staff, meitaki maata for your excellent work.

Madam Speaker, I’m pleased to say that this national level of capability today, has its origins in the visionary dreams of our former leaders.

One important example, is the direct line from the pronouncements by Papa Arapati Henry, to exercise sovereignty over our ocean’s resources, right through to the expansion of our international fishing agreements, and the establishment of a formal framework, to govern our seabed minerals.

Our role today and into future years, is to preserve the sustainability of these resources for the generations to come. For that reason, and to uphold our obligations internationally as well as domestically, the framework of Marae Moana was passed three years ago.

Marae Moana was not just an affirmation to ourselves of the importance of our future, it was also our very clear message to the world, that the natural resources of our EEZ would be forever protected under an umbrella of sustainable use – a balance in keeping with agreed UN principles.

That the Cook Islands would take such a strong position of international leadership, is testimony to a transformed sense of sovereign responsibility, irrespective of our size or weight, as a player in the global arena.

The Cook Islands would no longer plead its case from the perspective of a small island developing state, but from the vantage point of a large ocean state. This has been the underlying theme of our voice, and our actions, over the past decade.

In harmony with that perspective, the articulation of a national goal to transform our energy sector was given life more than eight years ago, following the declaration of renewable energy targets in 2011.

The steady conversion of electrification throughout our islands to solar power, has generated numerous benefits, while we continue to pursue the major challenge of transforming Rarotonga.

Diesel-fueled electricity, for example, no longer reflects the major share of our greenhouse gas emissions. Every Outer Island is free from the dependency of costly bulk fuel shipments. And we’ve helped set up an enabling environment for electric vehicles, which is already part of a new priority for the transport sector.

The paradise we call home is the core vision of these initiatives, which have been in force over nearly ten years. The land-based transformation of energy; the sustainability of our ocean’s resources under Marae Moana; and our reach for a better future by standing strong together, presents a formidable front to the outside world, and the pressures it can bring.

The day will come, when all Cook Islanders will be able to proclaim success in having secured a totally clean and green environment, despite the odds.

This is the distinction, that will set us apart from the rest of the world.

This is the position, from which our pristine environment can generate sustained economic opportunity.

This is the vision, that can provide the security for our sustained well-being into the future.

My goal as Prime Minister, was to set our controls to the heart of this vision.

The inevitable challenge all leaders face, is the support of those who must bring your vision to reality.

Leading the nation as one, is the most noble of duties, but one that can also prove to be the most elusive. The decisions you make have far-reaching consequences, and the need for support is as crucial, as it is broad.

Future goals will depend, on the ability to garner that support – to mold that support, which will come, if the realisation of those benefits changes the lives of people for the better.

Madam Speaker, this voluntary stepping down from high office today is the first in our 55-year history as a parliamentary democracy. And while this transition is breaking new political ground today, our obligation as representatives of the people should remain focused on a spirit of national togetherness rather than political ambition.

My encouragement now will focus on the need for our people to come together in support of the efforts needed, to manage these difficult times ahead.

The past seven months of uncertainty have been stressful and discomforting for us all. Our role as a government has been to provide as much support as is practicable, while ensuring we stay on course in securing our health and safety.

The key to preserving our COVID-free status, will continue to rest on our ability to work together as one, to stay committed as one, and be considerate of each other as if we are one. Vigilance and patience should be our guiding principles, and our confidence in the authority of our health experts, should inform our behaviour.

Amid the clouds of the unknown, we as a people are made stronger by the certainty of our faith in God, and the knowledge that He will guide our way forward.

Proverbs 3:5,6…“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your path.”

Madam Speaker, from the moment of taking office on 30 November 2010, my own path would be touched by many who chose to serve our people, but sadly, would be taken from us all too soon. And here today, represents the start of a Roll Call of Honour I wish to recite as a personal tribute:

Sir Geoffrey Henry, Prime Minister

Sir Dr. Terepai Maoate, Prime Minister

Dr. Joseph Williams, Prime Minister

Dr. Pupuke Robati, Prime Minister

Papa Jim Marurai, Prime Minister

Papa Inatio Akaruru, Deputy Prime Minister

Robert Wigmore, Deputy Prime Minister

Papa Kura Strickland, Minister of the Crown

Papa Dan Kamana, Minister of the Crown

Peri Vaevae Pare, Minister of the Crown

Nandi Glassie, Minister of the Crown

Papa Tepure Tapaitau, MP

Albert Peto Nicholas MP

Mii Parima MP

John Tangi MP

Pukeiti Pukeiti MP

Tony Armstrong MP

John Henry MP

Tiaki Wuatai MP

Tekii Lazaro MP

In remembrance of the colleagues I also worked with at the official level, and was deeply saddened to farewell as friends were:

Navy Epati, Public Service Commissioner

Aukino Tairea, Secretary to Cabinet

Tessa Temata, New Zealand High Commissioner to the Cook Islands

May they all live in our memory, with the honour deserving of ones who served, and served with excellence.

I believe that under my leadership the Cook Islands has achieved much, but I will leave it to others and history to determine whether my Prime Ministership was a success or failure

My current Government team….the Deputy Prime Minister, Cabinet Ministers and Caucus members. Thank you for your trust and loyalty and your unwavering commitment to the foundation of our government. We have indeed worked as a team.

To my previous Cabinets going back to 2010 and 2014 – thank you also for your support.

To the public service – you are the ones at the coal-face of our service delivery to our people, as well as bringing to reality the many innovative and successful projects we have all worked on. Our success is your success, and I thank you all for your efforts.

To our Traditional leaders who have been strong partners of Government in many development projects, for example, Marae Moana, Te Mato Vai, our new Immigration Bill and many others, thank you for your support.

To our spiritual leaders, thank you for keeping us true to our commitment in the Preamble to our Constitution;, that we are a Christian country, and for your prayers and words of encouragement when times were hard and challenging.

My support office family – Edwin Pittman, Amanda Blake Pauka, Apii Vakai, you guys were there for me 24/7, and at the heart of everything that has happened over the past 10 years. We were also blessed with the services of Trevor Pitt for a while and now and then, and recently with the addition of Teariki Vakalalabure in an Executive advisory role. Thank you for taking such good care of me.

Finally, my family. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic my children, who are all overseas,.are unable to be here today. This is in stark contrast to my swearing in on 30 November 2010. But I do want to thank them all for letting me get on with my job without interference or pressures. Instead you have always given me your prayers and unceasing support, and I only wish that Mama and Papa were around to be part of what has been a truly wonderful journey.

To my wife Akaiti, thank you for being my rock. I would not have made it this far without your love, support, and encouragement.

Madam Speaker, with these words of appreciation, I also extend to you my appreciation for your guidance and rulings, and convey to this Honourable House and all its members, my sincere gratitude for their kind support over the past 10 years of my Prime Ministership.

We have upheld our oaths of service to higher authorities, and met the demands placed upon us by this institution of parliamentary integrity. In the process, we have made each other better representatives of our people.

The challenge of leadership therefore lies not on the shoulders of one, but on the backs of us all to carry forward. The successes of government are achievements for us all, for in serving our nation, we bring honour to this House.

I extend to you all a heartfelt Kia Orana e Kia Manuia, with God’s Blessings.

God bless the Cook Islands.

ENDS: Enquiries to Jaewynn McKay +682 55486; jaewynn.mckay@wovenpacific.com

 

“From Manihiki with Love”

29 SEPTEMBER 2020, RAROTONGA COOK ISLANDS

It’s not every day a song gets written about you, in fact only a relative handful of people ever have that happen to them.

But when Prime Minister Henry Puna and Mrs Puna were in Manihiki last month, attending self government celebrations. They were both surprised and very moved, when a local family of noted musicians composed and performed a song honouring the Prime Minister’s time in office, thanking him for his service and talking about his life and family background linking him back to Manihiki.

Henry Puna has been the MP for Manihiki for 12 years and Prime Minister for the last ten. Although he was born in Aitutaki, his grandmother came from Manihiki.

The woman behind the song Reni Kaina-Karaponga wanted to go beyond just a normal farewell when Prime Minister Puna steps aside from the office – which he’s expected to do tomorrow – and enlisted the help of her father Tarau Kaina, to help compose the song.

The name of the song is Te Ropa Nei and a video of it is expected to be played at the Cook Islands Party conference tomorrow morning.

Mrs Akaiti Puna says the song is very moving, and the last verse in particular brought tears to their eyes when they first heard it in Manihiki.

Although Henry Puna is expected to step aside to allow deputy-prime minister Mark Brown to succeed him, he will remain as the MP for Manihiki for the rest of this Parliamentary term.

ENDS: Enquiries to Jaewynn McKay +682 55486; jaewynn.mckay@wovenpacific.com

 

Tracking progress against achieving the Cook Islands 2020 vision

28 SEPTEMBER 2020, RAROTONGA COOK ISLANDS

Media release 4 – Tracking progress

In 2016, the Cook Islands set itself a Vision that by 2020 the Cook Islands would be enjoying the highest quality of life consistent with the aspirations of our people, and in harmony with our culture and environment.

Checking to see just how well the Cook Islands is doing in achieving this vision, is the Central Policy and Planning Office (CPPO) of the Cook Islands Office of the Prime Minister.  The team are currently reviewing data and information from different government ministries to measure our progress against 66 different indicators which act as the ‘markers’ to achieving 16 national sustainable development goals.

These are the basis of Te Kaveinga Nui, the National Sustainable Development Plan 2016 – 2020, which steers the Cook Islands towards the 2020 vision.

“We’re aiming to have our report that spans our full Te Kaveinga Nui from 2016 to 2020, ready for release next year,” said Valentino Wichman, Director of CPPO.

“To do this we’ve been working with different government ministries, sifting through information shared with us, to develop a report which tells us if we are on track, off track or have areas of concern.”

The last report developed in 2019 outlined one of the 16 goals were on track and continuing to improve, this being Goal two – to expand economic opportunities, improve economic resilience and productive employment to ensure decent work for all. 

The report also indicated three of the 16 goals were of concern and regressing, requiring attention.  These being goal seven to improve health and promote healthy lifestyles, goal nine to accelerate gender equality, empower all women and girls, and advance the fights of youth, the elderly and disabled as well as goal 13 to strengthen resilience to combat the impacts of climate change and natural disasters.

“We’re interested in seeing the trends between the respective years and any implications brought by COVID 19,” said Ms Wichman.

She further elaborated that this reviewed content, will feed into the development of the new national blueprint, the Cook Islands National Sustainable Development Agenda 2020+

“These reports, also known as our Te Kaveinga Nui indicator reports, contain a wealth of information that gives us an overview which can also guide our future work.  We’re grateful for our government ministries that provide us with a wide range of data and information so we can track our progress as a nation.”

Although Te Kaveinga Nui comes to an end in 2020, the endeavor for sustainable development continues through the NSDA2020+ which has a 100 year vision.  It will be mapped against 25 year frameworks, with five-year strategies to measure advancement.

Consultations have been underway since August, to gather viewpoints and ideas as to how the Cook Islands can achieve a 100 year vision of wellbeing, all of which will result in the NSDA020+.  To date over 35 consultations have taken place with members of government ministries and state owned enterprises, Cook Islands Non-Governmental Organisations and the Pa Enua.  Consultations are continuing and will soon branch to the private sector, Cook Islanders in New Zealand and Australia, as well as publicly on Rarotonga through the three Vaka.

“This will be a Cook Islands-owned chart upon which we can map our progress towards wellbeing, as such we want to make sure that as many people are heard, so our journey ahead together is as one nation,” said Ms Wichman.

People are also welcome to share their submissions through the website www.pmoffice.gov.ck, the ‘To’ou Reo’ page is an interactive one which asks for your thoughts and ideas on several issues.  Content received through this page is also collated and prepared for researchers to develop key aspects of the NSDA2020+

To learn more about Te Kaveinga Nui and our progress please visit our scorecard at: https://www.pmoffice.gov.ck/

For further information please contact Ms Valentino Wichman at valentino.wichman@cookislands.gov.ck

ENDS

 

STATE MEMORIAL SERVICE FOR THE LATE DR JOSEPH WILLIAMS – MBChB MPH QSO QSM
Speech Notes: Prime Minister Puna 

11 SEPTEMBER 2020, RAROTONGA COOK ISLANDS

Kia Orana in the name of our Lord. Thank you for your attendance today, the expressions of sympathy and prayers, and the sharing of aroha with the family during this time of sorrow and remembrance.

The celebration of the life of Dr. Joseph Williams, and the honour with which we bestow on him today, stands as a significant representation of success and professional achievement. Dr. Joe established a strong presence in the early years of modern development in the Cook Islands and went on to provide important markers throughout our historical record of national progress.

In the Cook Islands, he was among the chosen ones. A young, highly educated professional, destined for something greater than himself. A knowledge seeker, who was willing to teach, keen to impart the benefits of his higher learning. A healer with the heart to listen. And to understand.

Dr. Joe had a remarkable career of many highlights, but it was the essence of a man who cared and wanted to serve people that puts him in the good company of our national heroes.

The accolades for Dr. Joe have poured forth far and wide – in the Cook Islands, New Zealand, throughout the Pacific, and beyond. The recognition is deserving. Few would achieve such heights and accomplish as much in their lifetime. That one of our own sons could have impacted and touched the lives of so many is simply outstanding. How proud we all are to have had him among us as a Cook Islander, to have had him as a doctor, to lead us as a politician, and to have served our community as a mentor of knowledge and ideas.

Our older generations will remember fondly, the young doctor who returned home in the early 1960s and quickly established himself as a physician of enormous promise. Many generations later, the influence of that young doctor, who hailed from Aitutaki, has since reached many thousands – an early promise fulfilled with the passing of knowledge and ideas to new generations of leaders and health professionals – here and abroad.

Outstanding among his achievements was recognition by the World Health Organisation of his body of work in the elimination of Lymphatic Filariasis from the Cook Islands, and his role at the global level to fight the tropical disease worldwide.

He subsequently received an award of appreciation from WHO in 2016. And his earlier tenure on the WHO Executive Board, as well as his collaborative work with the organisation, regional agencies, and domestic networks in New Zealand, all benefited from his contributions to healthcare.

As a young professional, Dr. Joe soon came to occupy the theatres of two worlds. That of medicine and politics. His potential in public life was recognised incredibly early by Papa Arapati Henry, who provided encouragement and mentoring in the late ‘60s and early ‘70s. Dr. Joe entered parliament to represent Aitutaki in 1968, and eventually the cabinet as Minister of Health and Education, under Papa Arapati’s leadership during the 70s.

He excelled in both spheres, attaining the highest levels of representation and service. And in many ways, allowing his character to shine through in both politics and medicine, as if they were a natural blend.

As Prime Minister in 1999, for example, Papa Joe carried his doctor’s bedside manner into the leadership role, opening his office door to public consultations and visits – much like he would at his clinic in New Zealand. On one day each week, the veranda of the Prime Minister’s Office often resembled a waiting room!

Despite holding office for only a short time, Dr. Joe accomplished much and set a new pace for leaders to follow. He was not just a pioneer in the medical field. He threw open the doors and shed light on the decisions of his Cabinet meetings, thereby establishing a new approach to transparency in government. He welcomed the chance to do good and took the pulse of the community to maintain a healthy level of public welfare.

In those months towards the end of 1999, Dr Joe also contributed positively on the Pacific stage, attending the Forum Leaders’ Meeting in Palau and in the process, helped strengthen the network of key relationships in the Region.

With his passing, some of the governments of those countries are conveying their heartfelt sympathies to Jill and the family, and our nation. The Republics of Palau, and the Marshall Islands, as well as the President of French Polynesia, for instance, have all sent their deepest condolences.

Visionary leaders, especially those breaking new ground, are often held to a higher degree of criticism and Dr. Joe sometimes had to face the challenge of acceptance.

The prime minister’s role and his parliamentary representation of the Overseas Seat were such challenges, but dedication and service remained the hallmark of his leadership.

Unfortunately, his tenure as leader became a casualty of the times. The new millennium for Cook Islands’ politics was a time of uncertainty and competing interests where the stakes ran very high for more than five years.

Successive coalition governments dominated our political landscape soon after Dr. Joe left office but thankfully, the call to service was part of who he was. He remained true to his people until the circumstances eventually changed and the domestic political door closed before the general election of 2004.

The medical world gained much from Dr. Joe as fresh doors opened to his pioneering spirit after returning to New Zealand. His subsequent research work was ground-breaking, sometimes controversial, but always to advance the science behind the treatment for conditions that afflict many of our Pacific people, such as diabetes and eczema.

While the political doors did not open for Dr. Joe in New Zealand, his contributions continued to be felt in many ways by those in fields of medicine and healthcare.

For his exemplary work over many decades, he was duly honoured by the Palace, being awarded the Queen’s Service Medal in 1974, and Companion of the Queen’s Service Order in 2011 for his services to the Cook Islands community.

Of particular note more recently, has been Dr. Joe’s close collaboration with the Pasifika Medical Association, to whom he was Patron, and previously, as a recipient of the Pasifika Medical Association Service Medal in 2004.

He was an active participant wherever he could play a part and contributed significantly to the ongoing success of our annual Health Conference, alongside compatriots Dr. Kiki Maoate, Dr. Robert Woonton, and many others, who traveled home to give back to the people and to the country.

Papa Joe had been the last surviving member of only our second general election in 1968. And the last of his medical profession from the era of political transition from New Zealand to self-government in 1965. A true pioneer in service to our people through governance and healthcare.

To his wife Jill and all the family members, here and overseas, we embrace you in sorrow to honour our Papa Joe – for his life and his memory.

God Bless us all, Kia Manuia.

ENDS: Enquiries to Jaewynn McKay +682 55486; jaewynn.mckay@wovenpacific.com

 

Our Cook Islands national blueprint, our voices

7 SEPTEMBER 2020, RAROTONGA COOK ISLANDS

Media release 3 – Our Cook Islands National blueprint

Over 20 Cook Islands agencies have since shared their views to help guide our Cook Islands National Sustainable Development Agenda 2020+.
Since launch of the consultation phase on 31 July, twenty-four Cook Islands agencies have met with the Central Policy and Planning office (CPPO) of the Office of the Prime Minister (OPM), sharing their views on well-being, their visions for the Cook Islands and how we could get there.
The Cook Islands is currently developing the national 100-year blueprint to be endorsed next year. This will extend on from the current Cook Islands National Development Plan 2016 – 2020 and will span four generations with 25-year frameworks that are monitored against 5-year implementation plans.
“We’ve had some really interesting discussions over the past month, there are many different voices so we’ve had a wide range of thoughts and input, as well as collective themes come through,” said Valentino Wichman, Director of CPPO of the Office of the Prime Minister (OPM).
“The development of our NSDA2020+ has come at the right time, the impacts of COVID-19 have seen us all have to pause and reset, allow us time to rethink everything, before we build back our future. The input from many we have spoken to reflects this.”
Teams from ten government ministries, ten crown agencies, two NGO’s and two state owned enterprises have all shared their input. The OPM -NSDA2020+ government webpage also has an interactive component which allows for people to input their viewpoints on key issues, and a Facebook page growing in popularity has also been a platform to receive views from Cook Islanders.
“The more feedback and voices we hear, the better we can develop a plan that reflects our collective aspirations. The more we are told by you, the more we are able to ensure that this is a 100-year vision that we all own together, and implement together,” said Ms Wichman.
Still to meet with ten more government agencies, the CPPO consultations will then focus on the non-government Organisations and private sector together with the Pa Enua as well as the three vaka on Rarotonga.
Another large component of the NSDA2020+ development is the research phase. This helps ensure the consultations, literature review and evidence, will be guided by a methodology for a well-developed national blueprint. The NSDA2020+ research committee are now in the process of procuring support for this.
“Our framework is one we are calling ‘Akapapaa’anga in reflection of our nationally owned plan – we are applying this as the cornerstone of our Cook Islands society. Through this research we will be able to identify any new issues that may obstruct the wellbeing of our people. It will help better shape the frameworks and scorecards in the future,” said Ms Wichman.
The goal is for the draft NSDA2020+ report to be presented in December for further input before submitted for endorsement in April next year.
Should you wish to know more about the Cook Islands NSDA2020+ please visit www.pmoffice.gov.ck or email cppo@cookislands.gov.ck

 

Our Nation Loses a Much-Loved Son

4 SEPTEMBER 2020, RAROTONGA COOK ISLANDS

It is with great sadness and a very heavy heart that I advise of the passing of our much-loved Dr Joe Williams MBChB, MPH, QSM, QSO.

Dr Joe was a pioneer on many fronts and a man way beyond his time. He was one of our early breed of home-grown medical officers of health. As well as being in general practice and serving the people of our country for many years he went into politics in 1968 when he was elected as an MP for Aitutaki. He served as Minister of Health and Education in the 1970s. In 1999 he became the country’s fifth Prime Minister and also held the Minister of Foreign Affairs portfolio.

Born in Aitutaki in October 1934, Dr Williams has in recent years been based in Auckland and for thousands of our people in New Zealand, his medical practice was where they headed for their primary health care.

Dr Williams was well regarded as a medical researcher and is credited for his world-leading research with the World Health Organization and practice to prevent the spread of the tropical disease lymphatic filariasis.

Dr Williams will be greatly missed. E tumu rakau ruperupe teia no te Basileia kua inga. On behalf of the Government and people of the Cook Islands I extend our heart-felt condolences to Dr William’s wife Jill and family.

A National Memorial Service will be organised for Dr Williams once his funeral arrangements have been confirmed

As a sign of respect and remembrance I have asked that all our flags on government buildings be flown at half-mast.

ENDS: Enquiries to Jaewynn McKay +682 55486; jaewynn.mckay@wovenpacific.com