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RAROTONGA, Cook Islands (Cook Islands News, May 31) –Rarotonga will be inundated next week by scores of New Zealand heavyweights in politics and commerce. Foreign affairs minister Winston Peters is bringing a delegation of around 60 people to the Cook Islands during what's called the annual "Pacific road-show".

For Peters, leader of the New Zealand Party, it will be a case of returning to the island he often visits on holiday - but this time he will be on duty. The delegation arrives on Wednesday June 7 and leaves on Saturday June10. They will be in Rarotonga the whole time.

Beforehand the delegation will visit Vanuatu for a few days.

Peters will be accompanied by a delegation comprising members of parliament as well as business and non-government organization representatives.

It has become a tradition for New Zealand's minister of foreign affairs to lead a delegation of Members of Parliament, non-governmental organizations, officials, media and business people to the Pacific each year.

This year's delegation differs from previous years in that it has a large number of business representatives, says the minister's press secretary, Sophie Lee.

She says this reflects the importance of the Pacific region to the New Zealand private sector and the role New Zealanders can play in assisting the economic development of both Vanuatu and Cook Islands.

"The Pacific region is not only an important market for New Zealand business," Lee says. "It is also a priority region for New Zealand's aid donor agencies.

"New Zealand AID, along with other non-governmental organizations, contributes a substantial amount of development assistance to the Pacific every year in areas such as education, health, governance, law and justice, economic growth and disaster relief."

This year the delegation has representatives from the Fred Hollows Foundation, the Council for International Development, Rotary International and the Pacific Cooperation Foundation.

The Cook Islands Chamber of Commerce and New Zealand High Commission have jointly organized a luncheon for local people and members of the delegation. It will be held on Friday 9 June at Tamarind Restaurant.

To stimulate useful discussion and dialogue, the chamber is matching five delegation members with five local people at tables of ten, clustering them according to interests. Suggested clusters include fishing, retail, offshore financial services, tourism, finance/banking, commerce, education, health, pearl industry, telecommunications/IT, environmental, recycling, transport, culture and development funding.

June 6, 2006

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