Cook Islands Culture Secretary Pleads For More Government Funds

Government support decreases dollar-for-dollar fort whatever funds raised from other sources

By Richard Moore 

RAROTONGA, Cook Islands (Cook Islands News, May 10, 2017) – Culture secretary Anthony Turua has called for his cash-strapped ministry to be given more funds.

Turua appeared before the parliamentary Public Accounts Committee this week and pleaded for more money to be made available.

He told surprised committee members that while Culture was supposed to get $193,000 [US$133,000] a year to run the National Museum, the National Archive and the Library, as well as events, it actually received very little money from government.

The money the ministry earns through events is taken from the amount allocated to its budget.

“My trading income is $175,000 [US$121,000] and they are supposed to give me $193,000 for my operations, but it doesn’t work out that way.

“The $193,000 is what has been factored in as my operating budget, but because I am getting $175,000 basically it offsets that.

“They just take it off. I have to earn $175,000 to pay for my operation so, in reality, the $193,000 is not coming into my ministry’s pocket.”

Turua says a reasonable budget for Culture would be both figures – around $370,000 [US$255,000] a year.

“I made a plea for parliamentarians to support me in terms of identifying culture as the pinnacle for the country and there needs to be more investment in the museum, archives and national library.

“It’s not just performing arts, but also our language.

“If we want to recognise culture as our identity then we need to put something into it.”

Turua says he only has 22 staff who run the museum, the archive, the library and also the cultural events.

“I have to pull out all my archive staff to work on events when they need to be focusing on their work.

“It is a challenge I just have to live with it, but this is a window of opportunity I must take.”

The secretary says: “I used to be with Ministry of Education with plenty of money. The whole community knows education is the priority and it gets lots of funding.

“But when you mention language and culture we become the lowest priority!

“We should be treated the same as health and education because tourists come here for the culture and the people. They don’t come here to look at education and health. They come here for the culture, our people, and so we should be investing in those areas.”

Turua says during his short time with Culture, he has developed capacity training for his staff, developed proper templates for contracts with goods and services and a number of other good practices.

With his current budget, Turua says he cannot implement a number of legal requirements introduced by the government.

 “I have several legal things that need to be implemented but there is no point me administering the Copyright Act or the Traditional Knowledge Act when I don’t have the resources or capacity to do so.”

A major part of his role at the ministry has been to put into place a four year strategic plan of major events to allow for better marketing and funding.

“Now that I have a calendar for four years forward planning, I can look at capacity and preplanning. It’s a big job and I need resources and if I need resources I need funding.

“I don’t want to bring people in off the street who have no background in certain areas or experience.

“For example with tech people, we need to have someone come on board and hit the road running. If they come on board and I have to do the training then that’s a disadvantage for four or five months before an event.”

Cook Islands News
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