5 Aug 2015

Cook Islands and NZ reaffirm ties

4:42 pm on 5 August 2015

The leaders of New Zealand and the Cook Islands have reaffirmed ties in front of crowds in Rarotonga on the 50th anniversary of self governance for the Cooks in free association with New Zealand.

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

Hundreds have poured in from the furthest islands to celebrate Constitution Day, enjoy food and traditional entertainment and hear speeches from the two countries' prime ministers.

New Zealand's John Key says the relationship goes beyond simple international engagement.

"Cook Islanders are the second biggest Pacific ethnic group in New Zealand with 62,000 Cook Islands Maori calling New Zealand home. And they are an important part of the success, contributing in the fields ranging from arts and academia to business and sport, and who will forget Lima Sopoaga with his first match for the All Blacks a couple of weeks ago when we beat the mighty Springboks."

Mr Key said the Cook Islands had forged increasing ties with other countries and was developing its own international personality but he said New Zealand would continue to ensure the Cook Islands' voice is heard on the world stage.

The Cook Islands prime minister Henry Puna said despite debate in 1965 about the arrangement, the deal has brought value to the Cooks as well as a stable economy and transparent government.

Prime Ministers Henry Puna and Johny Key in Rarotonga.

The Cook Islands Prime Minister, Henry Puna, and the New Zealand Prime Minister, John Key, in Rarotonga. Photo: RNZI / Sally Round

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