31 Aug 2015

Cooks Islands Manihiki payment from emergency fund

4:04 pm on 31 August 2015

The Cook Islands Government has revealed threats from some Manihiki landowners drove it to pay them out early.

In a highly unusual process, 10 Manihiki landowners were given about $US26 thousand dollars from the government's contingency fund - a reserve of public money meant for emergencies.

Manihikans, who were in Rarotonga for the Te Maeva celebrations, had expected compensation to be paid at that time for their lands that have been used for solar power plants on Tukao and Manihiki.

The prime minister's chief of staff Elizabeth Wright-Koteka says the landowners wanted to buy goods in Rarotonga before returning to Manihiki.

But with the Land Court still to determine who the rightful owners are, it was not ready to make the payout.

The landowners then threatened to turn off the islands' power systems and re-enter their lands - a move that prompted the government to make the payment out of the contingency fund.

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