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AVARUA, Rarotonga, Cook Islands (March 1, 2002 – Radio Australia)---The Cook Islands government has abandoned a major campaign to lure Cook Islanders living overseas to return home.

Piho Rua, secretary to Prime Minister Dr. Robert Woonton, announced that the Cabinet has decided to put the "Cook Islands Relocation Project" on hold, just weeks before its planned official launch in New Zealand.

He did not give any specific explanation for the move, but he did say the government might consider it again in the future.

The campaign, which was to have been inaugurated at the Pasifika Festival in Auckland, was developed to end the flow of thousands of people from the Cook Islands, which has been a problem since the mid-1990s. The planned project centered round a website that would advertise job vacancies only for Cook Islanders.

The current resident population of the Cook Islands is estimated to be approximately 18,000.

For additional reports from Radio Australia, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Radio/TV News/Radio Australia.

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