9 Mar 2009

Cook Islands protestors over Aitutaki flights stand firm

8:40 pm on 9 March 2009

A Cook Islands church reverend on Aitutaki says about 90 percent of locals are opposed to flights on Sundays to the popular tourist island.

Reverend Tuvaine Glassie of the Cook Islands Christian Church on Aitutaki says protestors have been peacefully protesting at the airport most Sundays, and will continue to do so until a referendum is held on the issue.

He says that its been a long held tradition to not have flights disturbing Sunday services, and even though they've been told its just a trial.

"People are not happy. There's nothing much else really that the people can do. To be honest, yep the noise is a bit loud, but it's something to do with the traditional value of the island and the people, how the people, we value Sundays and how our forefather's valued it. And they say no interference on the day, and it has continued til our generation and it also interferes with Sunday services."

However, the Mayor of Aitutaki, Tai Herman says that the protestors are wasting their time.

He says the government is considering holding a referendum but that Sunday flights are here to stay as tourism is crucial to the economy.

Mr Herman says that people with a personal grievances against the airline and the islands leaders are doing the protesting, but that they need to find better ways to utilise their time.

Its not about tradition. It's some people have a personal arguments with some people. The shops are open on Sundays, we have the hospital open on Sundays, we have hotels, motels open on Sundays. Rental bikes and rental cars open on Sundays. But we still have a kind of respect for Sundays. Y'know Sunday is like a family day.