Cooks PM says NZ relationship paramount
The Cook Islands Prime Minister Henry Puna says its relationship with New Zealand is a double edged-sword but his government would never do anything to put it at risk.
The Cook Islands Prime Minister Henry Puna admits his country's relationship with New Zealand is a double edged-sword but his government would never do anything to put it at risk.
The two countries have been celebrating 50 years this week since the former New Zealand territory became self-governing but with New Zealand passports for its people.
Mr Puna told Sally Round the relationship with New Zealand was of paramount importance.
HENRY PUNA: We enjoy our New Zealand citizenship and we will never do anything that might put that at risk.
SALLY ROUND: Do you see it somewhat as a double-edged sword though because you do have this problem of people departing for the brighter lights of Australia and New Zealand?
HP: It is indeed. It is a double-edged sword but that's life and I have yet to hear of any reasonable option for addressing the issue and people have been so busy blaming politics and other causes for the depopulation but it's not. The reality is Cook islanders have always been voyaging people, they love to travel, that's how we got here in the first place.
SR: But are people coming back now with initiatives, with the solar energy, with the likes of a new school on the horizon?
HP: That is the hope and government can only do what it can to create the environment that will hopefully attract our people back.
SR: And what would you say is this government's greatest initiative in attracting those people?
HP: Well providing clean and green energy to the northern group islands 24/seven is a huge first step. Not many people know but one of the islands Pukapuka has never had reticulated energy up until the power switch was turned on for the solar power on December 24th last year so that's something huge for them. Finally they're catching up to the modern era and we hope that that will be a signal and a magnet to attract Pukapukans back to their home island. There are other initiatives that government needs to put in place for example a regular and reliable shipping service, regular, reliable and affordable shipping service and I think if we can do that then the groundwork is there to entice our people back.
SR: And attracting new investors?
HP: And attracting new investors, yes. So government is not just sitting idle. We're taking all these bold initiatives in order to create the environment not only to attract our people back from Australia or New Zealand but also to give our people a better quality of life in the outer islands.
To embed this content on your own webpage, cut and paste the following: