5 Aug 2015

Cooks celebrates 50 years of self-government

4:43 pm on 5 August 2015

Hundreds of Cook Islanders have poured into the capital, Rarotonga, to celebrate 50 years of self-government.

Today is Constitution Day in the Cook Islands and New Zealand has brought a large delegation to mark the start of its special relationship with the country.

The waterfront in Rarotonga has been heaving as crowds gather for traditional dancing and speeches, with guests called from all over the Cooks' far-flung islands.

Guests attending the Cook Islands 50th anniversary celebrations.

Guests are attending the anniversary celebrations from various islands. Photo: RNZI/Sally Round

New Zealand's large delegation has been attending a special prayer service.

It has also been showing off aid projects in the Cooks, such as its solar energy plant and plans for a major school upgrade.

The Cook Islands government said the gift was a major confidence booster for the country.

While some have said the Cook Islands can not afford the festivities, most here - including the opposition - have said it is time to celebrate.

Cook Islands dancers at te maeva nui for the 50th anniversary of Cooks self governance

Dancers from Manihiki take a break from te Maeva Nui festivities on Rarotonga. Photo: RNZ Sally Round

Concerns raised with New Zealand's PM

Some opposition members have still managed to weave work into play.

MPs James Beer and Tamaiva Tuavera aired their concerns for the Cook Islands to New Zealand Prime Minister John Key over a round of golf.

Among the subjects raised was the Cook Islands' representation at the United Nations, and qualifying requirements for Cook Islanders who wish to claim New Zealand superannuation and return to the Cook Islands.

Mr Key said they also spoke about economic development opportunities.

"I just reiterated that New Zealand's a very long-term partner, we want to maintain the constitutional relationship we've got with the Cook Islands.

"We're very optimistic for what we see in the Cook Islands. But clearly the economy and those issues are big focus to New Zealand, to try and support jobs and opportunities here in the Cooks."

Mr Key, who also played with the Cook Islands Prime Minister, Henry Puna, said meeting with the opposition was an important part of democracy.

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