Project To Turn Cooks' Island Into Regional Fishing Hub

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Pacific Islands Development Program, East-West Center With Support From Center for Pacific Islands Studies, University of Hawai‘i

$13M development, conflicting claims on impacts

WELLINGTON, New Zealand (Radio New Zealand International, February 28, 2016) – A former Cook Islands MP says the government is planning to turn Penrhyn Island in the country's north into a giant hub for fishing boats in the region.

Wilkie Rasmussen said a reliable source told him the government will soon announce it will inject US$13 million into upgrading Penrhyn Harbour to accommodate up to 100 fishing ships, 30 of them licensed to fish in Cook Islands waters.

He said it would mean boats fishing in other waters such as Kiribati and French Polynesia will go to Penhryn for dry docking, to offload catches and to refuel.

He said such a big development would overwhelm the island, which has a population of 120 people.

"The project is about developing the island and turning it into a fishing hub. We are looking at about 100 odd ships that could call into that island within a very short space of time. It really is you know, an island in isolation. All of a sudden you've got an invasion taking place."

Wilkie Rasmussen says no one has been consulted on the plan in Penrhyn.

But the Cook Islands government said the allegations are incorrect.

The Cook Islands News reported a government spokesperson, Trevor Pitt, saying the claims are "nonsensical" and "fantasy-driven drivel".

Mr Pitt said the government alway ensured every concern is catered for in any development around the country.

He said the prime minister recognises the government is duty-bound to preserve the long-term interests of the island's people.

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