Cook Islands Opposition Questions $546,000 Government Funding For Church Hall

James Beers says support of country's biggest church is wasteful use of public funds

By Florence Syme-Buchanan 

RAROTONGA, Cook Islands (Cook Islands News, July 10, 2017) – The gifting of $750,000 [US$546,000] to the country’s biggest church to help it build a new hall has been described as disgraceful by Opposition Finance spokesman James Beer.

Beer did not mince words about the huge grant, saying it was a questionable decision.

In the 2016/17 financial year $150,000 [US$109,000] was given to the Cook Islands Christian Church – an amount further topped up by $600,000 [US$436,000] in the current 2017/18 budget.

Spending such a huge amount on a new building for a church has been heavily criticised by Beer as wasteful spending of tax payer dollars by the government.

“In a properly-functioning democracy, people should have access to education, health, and justice. These are priorities,” Beer said.

 “Three-quarters of a million dollars to refurbish the Cook Islands Christian Church Training Centre is not a priority – particularly when Police recruits have a starting salary of $14,000 [US$10,000] per annum or land court records held at the Ministry of Justice are in dire need of a major overhaul, or when most of the Pa Enua have no doctors or dentists.

“In a wealthy society, and ours is not, where the economy is large and diversified, and ours  is not, where people remain home because of that, and ours do not, then and only then should money be shifted towards non-priority areas.”

He added that some Cook Islanders might feel that helping religious organisations should be an expenditure priority, but this opens up a series of very difficult-to-answer questions.

“Whose religion gets money from the government, and whose does not?

“How can the Government ever hope to make such an allocation in a way that other religious organisations are treated fairly?” Beer asked.

Financial Secretary Garth Henderson confirmed no other churches have been allocated funds in the new budget.

Finance minister Mark Brown revealed that the Catholic Church community is being assisted to the tune of $500,000 [US$364,000] with rebuilding Nukutere College and securing land for the school.

The Cook Islands Christian Church has stated the new hall has a price tag of $639,800 [US$465,400].

Sources have told CI News that this was scaled back from an original cost of $1.2 million [US$873,000].

It’s believed that the government grant will go towards furbishing the new multi-purpose hall.

Beer says the tens of thousands being gifted to the CICC is little more than “blatant vote buying.”

Cook Islands News
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I will question my MP here in New Zealand as to why we are offering any aid to the Cook Islands at all if this is the area in which they see priority.

I consider it wrong that any religions get tax-payers’ money in the form of grants from governments. The Roman Catholic Church, for example, is obscenely wealthy and it should, and could, pay for its new buildings and schools from its own coffers, yet it always pleads poverty and uses emotional blackmail to get money it hasn’t earned and doesn’t deserve. Why should governments and tax-payers be expected to fund an organisation that brainwashes people, especially impressionable children, with its irrational beliefs, superstitions, prejudices, and anachronistic worldviews? Other church denominations are little better in those respects.

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