Cook Islands Asks For Outside Help With 50th Anniversary Transport

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Outer island residents will travel to Rarotonga for Te Maeva Nui

By Phillipa Webb

RAROTONGA, Cook Islands (Cook Islands News, April 1, 2015) – Prime Minister Henry Puna has reached out to French Polynesia, New Zealand, and Samoa for help with transport of people from the Pa Enua to Rarotonga for this year’s Te Maeva Nui celebrations.

This year marks 50 years of the Cook Islands self-government, and the celebrations are expected to reach new heights.

The event, to be held from July 23 – August 7 will see a shift from the National Auditorium to the BCI Stadium in Nikao, with numerous other side events to be staged at other venues across the island.

To prepare for the increase in numbers expected at the celebration, Deputy Prime Minister Teariki Heather and Secretary for Culture Sonny Williams are in Tahiti until Thursday to learn more about staging a large-scale event.

CINews has received unconfirmed reports that the group is also looking at whether Tahiti can provide support for transporting outer islands residents to Rarotonga for the celebrations.

Prime Minister Henry Puna’s advisor Trevor Pitt says Puna and his Ministerial team have been working on transport options and have focused particularly on northern island residents, because of the distance, cost and safety requirements involved.

"There will be sizeable teams from the north – the bigger islands, and adequate shipping is required for passengers and all their freight.

"Government has invited a number of our key partners to the celebrations and part of the PM’s diplomatic efforts has been to explore the ways in which some of our closest partners may contribute to the staging of our events." Pitt says.

The Prime Minister has been using opportunities such as his overseas assignments to convey the Cook Islands’ needs, especially in areas where the country really needs help, he says.

"Transportation is one such key need, given the numbers we are looking at.

Over the past several months, Government has been determining what those numbers are so that the appropriate shipping can be matched with the available assistance."

The Prime Minister has raised the issue with French Polynesia, New Zealand, and Samoa, Pitt says.

"He is continuing to lead those discussions to clarify the options, so we’re not quite there yet. It’s possible there will be a combined effort which also includes domestic shippers."

Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Immigration’s Myra Patai told CINews on Monday that she understood the Deputy Prime Minister’s trip was to ‘sound out’ Tahiti, as the island territory puts on large-scale cultural events annually.

Last Friday Office of the Deputy Prime Minister chief executive Ben Mose said Heather and Williams would be looking at technical equipment such as sound systems which would be needed to equip the Telecom Sports Arena for Te Maeva Nui.

Their group is expected to return to Rarotonga tomorrow.

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