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RAROTONGA, Cook Islands (Cook Islands News, Dec. 20) - Petrol and diesel is on its way to Pukapuka in a deal with Samoa suppliers for about half the price it can be bought from Rarotonga's fuel suppliers.

Money stumped up by private Pukapukan interests has enabled the northern group island to avoid Cook Islands suppliers for not just fuel but also general merchandise.

News of this reached Rarotonga yesterday after reports of a Christmas supply crisis on Pukapuka - see Samoa shipments save the day in Puakpuka, page 4.

The distance between Pukapuka and Apia, Samoa, is just 390 nautical miles, nearly half the distance between Rarotonga and Pukapuka (715 nautical miles).

The northern report also coincided with an announcement by deputy prime minister and finance minister Sir Terepai Maoate that he is seeking urgent talks to discuss better fuel buying rates and arrangements with Samoa's cabinet minister responsible for fuel.

A meeting is scheduled to take place early next year in Apia.

Sir Terepai says he wants to see the problem of rising fuel costs, which will adversely impact on the Cook Islands economy, sorted out as soon as possible and would have met with his Samoa counterpart this week had aircraft seats to the island nation been available.

"While this government promotes private sector development and supports a free market, when a situation arises which will impact negatively on our economy, the government must intervene and look at reasonable solutions."

Talks were held with local fuel suppliers, Triad Pacific Petroleum, Toa Petroleum and Juhi last week.

The DPM has also held talks with French Polynesian fuel suppliers this month.

Sir Terepai says an option that government has put to suppliers is the bulk purchase of fuel and utilisation of one tanker to transport fuel to the Cook Islands to maximise volume and reduce costs.

At present fuel suppliers import fuel on different vessels and in varying quantities.

"Samoa has in place an efficient system regarding the purchase and import of fuel - this results in Samoans paying cheaper fuel prices than we do here in the Cook Islands," says Sir Terepai.

"I would like to discuss their scheme and process in detail with the minister responsible with the view that if it would work here, we could introduce the same system in the Cook Islands."

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