New Zealand Provides Funds For Cooks Maritime Safety

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Initiative includes safety equipment, training, mentoring, and advice

RAROTONGA, Cook Islands (Cook Islands News, March 31, 2015) – The New Zealand Aid Programme yesterday entered into a new partnership with the Cook Islands Government to provide $450,000 [US$339,000] for maritime safety initiatives in the Cook Islands.

The Maritime Safety Programme is a regional activity, and the Cook Islands are set to benefit from increased institutional support, safety equipment, training, mentoring, and advice.

The programme is designed to help improve the safety of lives at sea through improved maritime safety and increased capability within the maritime sector.

The funding will help improve the effectiveness and performance of the Marine Division of the Ministry of Transport by increasing their capacity to deliver implementation of a Cook Islands National Maritime Transport Policy and Strategic Plan, which was also funded through the maritime safety programme.

Acting New Zealand High Commissioner to the Cook Islands Aimee Jephson signed the contract with Financial Secretary Richard Neves, in a ceremony attended by officials from the Ministry of Marine Resources, the Ministry of Transport, and the Cook Islands Water Safety Council.

"Unfortunately there have been a number of major accidents around the Pacific in recent years, which have reinforced the need to improve maritime safety in the Pacific region," said Joseph Mayhew, aid manager at the New Zealand High Commission.

Director of Maritime in the Ministry of Transport, Stephen Simpson, was delighted with the new support programme.

"This programme will make a big difference, by helping the Ministry to maintain maritime safety standards, regulatory compliance, and information for the safe operation of all domestic and international shipping services, as well to improve safety standards for small local vessels." he said.

The new programme will also provide access to safety equipment, safety information, safety advice, navigational aids and distress alerting equipment, and facilities to help teach children to swim.

There are four main components to the funding, which will be administered by the Minister of Finance development programme.

The first is that a technical advisor will be hired to help the Ministry of Transport to implement the Cook Islands National Maritime Transport Policy and Strategic plan and a procurement process for this is expected to begin shortly.

Secondly, funding will be used to repair a charter beacon in Aitutaki.

Funding will also be used for the creation of 50 ‘grab bags’, which will be located at fishing clubs across the Cook Islands. The bags contain safety equipment that fishermen can take out to sea.

Mayhew said the ‘grab bags’ were actually just a continuation of a successful existing programme that the Ministry of Marine Resources already ran.

"We are providing funding to build on the success of the existing scheme and purchase additional grab bags. The intention is that the bags will be distributed through fishing clubs or other mechanisms across the whole Cook Islands – not just Rarotonga."

The remaining funding will be used to buy a portable swimming pool which Water Safety and Surf Lifesaving Council vice-president Shannon Saunders said would provide a safe environment for youngsters to learn swimming and lifesaving skills.

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