Efforts to stem migration from Cooks
New Zealand and the Cook Islands have reaffirmed their strong ties 50 years after a novel deal was forged allowing self government for the Cooks including New Zealand passports for its people.
New Zealand and the Cook islands have reaffirmed their strong ties fifty years after a novel deal was forged allowing self government for the Cooks including New Zealand passports for its people.
But the Cooks' prime minister Henry Puna admits the ease of entry to New Zealand and Australia is a double edged sword for the country.
Sally Round has been in Rarotonga for the anniversary celebrations.
The Constitution Day festivities on Rarotonga attracted Cook islanders from far and wide, including a thousand people from the increasingly sparsely populated outer islands. Seventy percent of the population lives on the main island of Rarotonga but six times as many Cook Islanders live in New Zealand and Australia.
PERSON 1: New Zealand has always been there for us. They have never shut the door to us.
PERSON 2: It's good to be with New Zealand, even though we have been with New Zealand for a long time. For me, let that connection unite forever.
PERSON 3: The connection with New Zealand is still firm I believe. There are more people, Cook Islanders, living in New Zealand than here in the Cook Islands.
Permanent migration continues to be a major headache for the country particularly of young people who seek out the brighter lights and bigger pay packets of Australia and New Zealand. The 2011 census showed a staggering 40 percent loss of 15 to 24 year olds over a 20 year period. James Beer of the opposition Democratic Party describes the ongoing depopulation of the Cooks as a tragedy. He says there needs to be a better plan and better expertise to develop the economy, create jobs and bring people back.
JAMES BEER: We've become a one dimentional mono-culture of tourism. It's become too important to the point where it's not being able to deliver the results we want it to or expect it to deliver. A lot of the talent that was here is no longer here and getting that talent, to be able to coordinate those efforts is the biggest challenge that I see the country facing at the moment.
The Prime Minister Henry Puna says migration is in his people's genes, but he says his government is working with development partners and not standing idly by.
HENRY PUNA: Providing clean and green energy to the northern group of islands 24/7 is a huge first step and we hope that will be a signal and a magnet to attract PukaPukans back to their home island.
An education official in the Cooks Sharon Paio says New Zealand's 50th birthday gift of a 12 million dollar school upgrade will help stem the outward flow of people by bringing education in the Cooks into the 21st century.
SHARON PAIO: Currently we still quite a lot of families who think that sending their children to New Zealand for education is a better option. We know it's not. Our results show that it's not, and the quality of education is often judged by the environment within which students are learning. So this will have a huge confidence boost, I think.
19 year old Sapthra Taripo travelled from one of the most remote atolls Penrhyn for the Constitution Day celebrations. But he says he is not planning to join the estimated 90-thousand Cook Islanders living in New Zealand and Australia.
SAPTHRA TARIPO: I'm thinking, like as a youth, of going to NZ and Aus, but I thought about it and what's the point of going there? You work hard for your money but you also spend there. Back on the island, everything is free.
Sapthra Taripo wants more youth focused policies to attract more young people home.
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