Cost Of Cook Islands 50th Anniversary Celebrations Questioned

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Opposition: Year-long celebration ‘both excessive and expensive’

By Phillipa Webb

RAROTONGA, Cook Islands (Cook Islands News, Jan 14, 2015) – The year-long celebrations planned to mark 50 years of self-government in the Cook Islands should be cut back to just three months, says Opposition Leader William ‘Smiley’ Heather Jnr.

Heather says the Government’s 50th party plans are both excessive and expensive, and he questions how the country will be able to pay for them.

"We need to have a look at the costs and how are we going to pay for it.

"And what is it all for?"

The Government should review its plans and shorten the length of the celebrations, Heather says.

He is critical of the year’s first celebratory events – New Year’s concerts staged on Rarotonga and Aitutaki.

"For example, $5 a ticket for 3000 people would have brought in $15,000 which is less than a quarter of what I understand to be $85,000 that was spent on hosting the concerts.

"We are losing, not making money so this (celebration) is a ticket to throwing much-needed money away."

The $500,000 tagged for what 50th anniversary steering committee leader Nick Henry has described as ‘a year-long party’ would be better spent on repairing roads and fighting crime, which is increasing due to a lack of police resources, says Heather.

The Opposition Leader’s proposal involves cutting back the celebrations to three months and dividing the responsibilities of each month between the Government, the Religious Advisory Council and the House of Ariki and Koutu Nui.

Each of these sectors would plan activities according to capped funding, Heather says.

"For example the Cook Islands Christian Church is having its biannual general assembly here in Rarotonga in July, so blending their plans with the commemoration would be fantastic."

Meanwhile, 50th celebrations steering committee chairman Nick Henry says plans are in place for a series of events throughout the year.

A calendar has been released, and the focus will be on the Arorangi School Centennial, the Beats of Betela concert and the Que Bola Magic Show.

"It is not a calendar of 50th events, but it attempts to provide a complete calendar for what’s on in 2015," he says.

"My task is to try and coordinate existing events, to fill gaps to prevent resource overlaps and boost events that may over the years have fallen a bit flat.

"We are supporting many events this year and asking organisers to put a 50th slant and feel to their event. For example, we are assisting Vaka Eiva and the Sevens, but certainly we are not owners of these events."

Henry hoped to have the 50th anniversary logo completed yesterday and will launch it next week.

When CINews went to print, the Cook Islands 50th Celebrations Facebook page had just four ‘likes’ – including one from Nick Henry.

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