4 Jul 2003

Cook Islands government denies appointment of new Consular Officer in Auckland

10:28 am on 4 July 2003

The Cook Islands prime minister has rebutted a claim in a local newspaper that a paramount chief has been appointed the country's new Consul General to New Zealand.

The Cook Islands Herald had claimed that Pa Ariki had been chosen to replace Iaveta Arthur, the unsuccessful Democratic Party candidate for the overseas seat in the last general election.

Our correspondent, Florence Syme-Buchanan reports from Rarotonga.

"Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs, Dr Robert Woonton, has denied PaAriki's appointment saying it was never a consideration. Secretary for Foreign Affairs, Edwin Pitman, also says the newspaper report is incorrect. Last year, Pa Ariki was given a job in the Consular Office which hadn't been advertised. Cook Islands economic reforms policy requies all top positions to be advertised, however this has been ignored many times by the current administration. There was widespread speculation tat the time that the job of Consular Officer was in exchange for permitting the government's preferred developers, the Tepaki Group, to take on the Vaimaanga Hotel project. Pa Ariki owns the land on which the huge unfinished hotel stands."