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Funds earmarked for schools refurbishment

Helen Greig

RAROTONGA, Cook Islands (Cook Islands News, Sept. 10, 2008) – The Cook Islands government and New Zealand’s international aid and development agency (NZAID) yesterday signed two assistance packages covering education and policing worth over NZ$8 million [US$5.3 million] in the next two years.

"The two initiatives signed today (Tuesday) is the result of a significant amount of work by key stakeholders and agencies in the Cook Islands. They further develop the relationship between New Zealand and the Cook Islands and reflect NZAID’s commitment to a healthy, prosperous Pacific," said NZAID’s newly arrived country manager, Julie Affleck.

The support for the education sector will total $8 million over the next two years and will help realise government’s policy aim of achieving equal opportunities in education.

The funding will support the Cook Islands school refurbishment programme, the ministry of education’s education support programme (primary and secondary), and in-country training, scholarships and short-term training awards.

It is closely aligned with the new government endorsed sector plan – the education master plan. This plan sets the strategic direction for education over the next 15 years.

Acting NZ high commissioner Tia Barrett said that the assistance would also see NZAID moving towards supporting the education sector in the Cook Islands as a whole rather than focusing on individual projects. Up until now funding for education has been granted on a year-by-year basis as well.

"Over the last 25 years, New Zealand has worked in partnership with the Cook Islands to ensure that our support for education is inclusive and well-linked to their needs and priorities. The development of a sector wide approach will give a greater leadership role to the Cook Islands agencies and will help ensure a coordinated approach for NZAID support in this area."

For policing $620,000 has been allocated for the first year of the programme.

This will support the partnership between NZAID, NZ police and local police and begins a multi-year programme to build capacity in areas such as community policing, frontline investigation skills, negotiations and road policing.

According to Barrett, NZ is happy to support this work that includes the provision for a NZ police advisor to live and work in the Cook Islands, to share skills and further develop the working relationship between the two agencies.

Police commissioner Pat Tasker told CINews the NZ senior sergeant is due to arrive this month to begin his two-year secondment here. The officer will be mentoring as well as training frontline and traffic staff.

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