THREE CONTESTING OVERSEAS COOK ISLANDS PARLIAMENT SEAT

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By Mona Matepi

RAROTONGA, Cook Islands (March 2, 1999 – Cook Islands News)---Three political parties out of four are definitely fielding candidates for the Overseas Seat despite a recommendation from the Political Review Commission that it be abolished.

From the overseas constituency, the woman leading the newest party to join politics -- Cook Islands People's Party (CIPP) -- is adamant that the need for an overseas MP is as real as the tax department.

Tai Carpentier (nee Turepu) has rejected the commission's findings on the validity of the seat saying Cook Islanders in New Zealand pay their taxes to the New Zealand government which filters back to the Cooks through NZ's budget aid funding to the local economy.

Carpentier told Cook Islands News that she is in the final stages of firming up her list of candidates.

CIPP expects to be represented in every electorate.

Auckland's Joseph Ka was among those in New Zealand who rejected the commission's findings on the seat.

So far politicians appear to have pooh-poohed the report, claiming the findings do not totally portray the views of eligible voters.

CANDIDATES

The New Alliance Party (NAP) has confirmed Teariki Mataroa as its candidate for the Overseas Seat.

The Democratic Alliance Party (DAP) also has confirmed its intention to be represented in that electorate.

However, the ruling Cook Islands Party is yet to confirm whether it will heed the findings of the report commissioned by its government.

Sixty one per cent of those who attended the meetings during the commission's fact finding mission last year opted for the Overseas Seat to be abolished; 31% wanted it retained; less than 10% wanted more than one overseas constituency. Of those who attended the meetings in New Zealand, 53% wanted the seat scrapped.

All written submissions, with the exception of two, recommended that the seat to be abolished -- organizations unanimously rejected it.

COST

Real costs for the Overseas Seat are estimated at around $2,000 per voter per term.

At present, according to the commission, it is costing the country in excess of $100,000 in salary, travels, registration and organization to maintain the overseas seat -- and if the term of Parliament is reduced these costs could skyrocket.

A user pays system, where the overseas voters pay the full costs of having their own representative, has been suggested, but the commission rejected the idea saying it would tie voting to wealth.

Further findings cite the Overseas Seat as wasteful, with the majority of Cook Islanders tending to use the High Commission and the Consul Office more than their MP.

The Overseas constituency make up about 80,000 Cook Islanders -- New Zealand with the largest, about 52,000, some 25,000 in Australia and thousands in French Polynesia, the Americas, Europe, Asia and elsewhere.

Poor interest in the election process, however, showed a dismal record of 569 in that constituency who voted in the last elections.

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