COMMUNITY MUST APPROVE COOK ISLANDS CASINO: LANDOWNER PA

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By Jason Brown

AVARUA, Cook Islands (July 15, 2000 - Cook Islands News)---Hotel landowner Pa Ariki is said to "personally" have no objection to the casino proposal.

However her lawyer, Tim Arnold, quotes her as saying she expects casino developers to convince the community.

"Pa has consistently taken the position with the developers that it is for them to demonstrate to her that there is broad community support and a consensus favoring the establishment of a casino."

Arnold’s comments were read out by Chamber of Commerce president Don Beer, Jr. at a meeting to discuss the proposed casino. But the letter was quickly criticized by a member.

"That’s nonsense," accountant Mike Carr told the meeting. Carr was the first letter writer to come out solidly against the casino proposal.

APPEARED

After his letter appeared, "of the few people that saw my letter to the editor and commented on it Pa Ariki was the only person who came up to me who asked ‘Why did you write that?’ " said Carr.

"I would take that letter with a pinch of salt."

In his letter, Arnold said Pa Ariki has "absolute discretion" to agree or disagree with the casino plan.

Pa Ariki recognizes she holds the land not in her personal capacity, says Arnold, but as title land.

"Pa recognizes she is answerable to her Vaka and indeed to the community as a whole in respect of the use to which the land is put."

In an attempt to build goodwill with the hotel developers, Arnold says that Pa Ariki met with her mataiapo or chiefs to discuss the casino part of the plan.

Arnold claims that "some mataiapo supported the proposition, while others opposed it."

So far, traditional leaders in the Koutu Nui, church leaders in the Religious Advisory Council, members of the Chamber of Commerce and the Tourism Industry Council have all come out in opposition to the casino plan.

Prime Minister Dr. Terepai Maoate has stayed silent over the plan. So too has the Leader of the Opposition, Sir Geoffrey Henry. He said government should comment first.

Pa Ariki is also president of the House of Ariki, representing paramount chiefs from each island. It is not clear whether Pa Ariki has consulted with them on the casino issue.

A copy of Pa Ariki’s letter was given to Cook Islands News.

For additional reports from the Cook Islands News Online, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Newspapers/Cook Islands News Online.

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