6 Sep 2004

Cooks opposition warns of prime minister losing seat over pearl industry decline

3:52 pm on 6 September 2004

The president of the Cook Islands party, Henry Puna, says the decline of the black pearl industry on Manihiki could lead to the prime minister, Dr Robert Woonton, being dumped by his electorate.

Mr Puna, who's standing against Dr Woonton as a first time candidate, says while the prime minister has all the resources of government at his disposal, there's been little development on Manihiki in the ten years he's been in parliament.

He says people on Manihiki are disenchanted and unhappy so Dr Woonton may lose his seat.

"I happen to live here in Manhiki and I've been living here for the last seven years. I happen to know the issues that are of concern to the people. I have an intimate knowledge of what it is that makes the place tick and, in particular, what the problems are that are facing the people of Manihiki."

Mr Puna says five years ago, the black pearl industry was worth 13 million U.S. dollars but this year, sales and exports amounted to only two million dollars.