Cook Islands, Māori King Movement Establish Cultural Partnership

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Cook Islands, Māori King Movement Establish Cultural Partnership PM Puna ‘ecstatic’ about reinvigorating genealogical links

By Phillipa Webb

RAROTONGA, Cook Islands (Cook Islands News, Oct. 22, 2015) – The signing of a covenant at Turangawaewae Marae in Ngaruawahia, New Zealand by Prime Minister Henry Puna has formalised a new cultural partnership between the King Movement and the Cook Islands.

Puna is in New Zealand for the signing of the Koreromotu/Kawenata (covenant), Cook Islands Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Immigration Pacific Division director Jim Armistead.

"In acknowledgement of the close inter-governmental ties between the Cook Islands and New Zealand and the close customary connections between the Maori of Te Kuki Airani and Maori of Aotearoa, the Kingitanga and the Government of the Cook Islands wish to develop a formal relationship to advance their mutual interests for the benefit of the Maori of Te Kuki Airani and Maori of Aotearoa."

The covenant is the culmination of discussions held between the Cook Islands and Aotearoa Maori during the 50th anniversary of self-government celebrations and the subsequent State visit by Puna to New Zealand.

The agreement captures historical, ancestral and cultural linkages, Armistead said.

"The shared development values provide a strong foundation upon which future cooperation will be explored to advance the interests of our people."

Potential areas for cooperation include environmental issues including freshwater, climate change and fisheries, economic development including investment and commercial opportunities, social and cultural issues including language preservation and development and health and social wellbeing.

In terms of economic development, it is expected the Cook Islands will be able to explore beneficial and collaborative opportunities with Maori iwi with experience in investing in a wide range of business opportunities spanning fisheries, farming, technology, property development, retail, energy production, hotels and tourism.

Maori Television reported King Movement spokesperson Tukuroirangi Morgan as saying the signing was "hinged around a cultural framework, which is tied as a result of genealogical links."

These links had nurtured by the late Princess Te Puea Herangi, he said.

Puna, who returns to Rarotonga today, said he felt "absolutely ecstatic" about the signing.

"It’s a day when we in many ways are re-establishing our connections with the Maori people."

The new agreement will enable Waikato Tainui’s commercial arm, Tainui Group Holdings, to do business with the Cook Islands and open the door to talk directly with the leaders of the Polynesian Pacific Business forum.

The Maori King Movement arose among some New Zealand Maori tribes in the central North Island in the 1850s, aiming to establish a role similar in status to that of the monarch of the British colonists, in a bid to halt the alienation of Maori land.

Today, Maori King Tuheitia Paki holds a non-constitutional role, with no legal power from the perspective of the New Zealand government.

However, reigning monarchs retain the position of paramount chief of several important tribes and wield some power over these, especially within Tainui.

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