HERALD WEEKLY ISSUE 570:29 June 2011

Media welcomes early briefing by PM

Following Cabinet on Tuesday, Prime Minister Hon Henry Puna held a media conference in the Cabinet room.
It was a welcome departure from the normal briefing usually held at 2pm on the Friday after Tuesday’s Cabinet.
Notable about this session was the presence of TVNZ Pacific Reporter Barbara Dreaver and her cameraman Richard fresh from Tonga where she reported on the deepening crisis between Fiji and Tonga over the defection to Tonga of Bainimarama’s once closest confidant Lt Col Tevita Mara.
If the Cabinet table was a little crowded on one side with 10 additional media personnel from CI News, CITV, the Herald, Radio Cook Islands and Matariki FM Radio, the other side was loaded with Cabinet heavyweights, the PM, Minister for Finance Hon Mark Brown and Minister for Tourism Hon Teina Bishop.
The exchanges were cordial and frank though with some generalizations as opposed to detail. The PM appeared relaxed and in good humour-“We run an open government,” -his response to the issue raised concerning potential breaches of security at parliament and –“My papers must be falling through a hole in the floor under the table,”-in response to questions about his yet to be announced upcoming trip to a renewable energy meeting in Vienna, Austria where he has been invited to speak.
The following is a brief report on some of the issues raised at the media conference.
Budget deficit
The matter of the budget deficit was raised and Brown was asked if Government was considering using part of the $12 million in grant money from the Chinese to help take the strain off the budget next year. Two weeks ago, the Government realised that the estimates were short by $1.7 million. Brown advised finance officials were told to confirm the revenue estimates so that the sums could be re-done to balance the budget for 2011-2012. Among the options was to look at utilising the availability of the Chinese money, plus funds from the ADB for economic recovery ($9.5 million), and NZAID ($3 million for the economic sector, namely Tourism). Brown said the figures have not yet been finalised and that tapping into the $12 million from China is among the mix of options. The PM said the Chinese grant money comes with conditions attached. For example, if Government wants to spend it on machinery and equipment, the items have to be bought from China.
Review of the Public Sector
The issue of progress reports was raised and the PM said there was some concern that there had not been a progress report for some time on the review.
Confirmation of appointment of new FinSec
Brown was asked when government would be confirming that Richard Neves, an Australian, had been appointed as the new Financial Secretary. Brown said that matter should be directed to the PSC. The PM advised that with the PSC not available, he could advise that there were some housekeeping matters which needed to be undertaken before Neves took up his new position. Since 2009 Neves had been Acting Director at the Australian Capital Territory’s department of Treasury. His background included experience in policy, budgeting, planning, finance and local government. A graduate of ANU in Canberra, Neves played rugby for the University.
Exploratory fishing licenses approved
Minister Bishop advised that Cabinet had approved exploratory fishing licenses for Big Eye Tuna (10) and Sword Fish (10) but had held back on issuing any licenses for purse seine fishing given the public concern and the need to consult with the northern group. The licenses had gone to three major overseas companies.
Appointment of three Associate Ministers
The PM announced the appointment of three Associate Ministers, Ata Herman, Kiriau Turepu and John Henry (see media release this issue). He said all are resident on Rarotonga which is good as these are “working” positions. Each receives an additional $5,000 from the civil list.
PM to attend Energy Forum in Vienna
The PM advised he had been invited to attend the energy forum in Vienna from 21 to 23 June. His trip would be fully paid for and he will be on the panel. He will advise the gathering about the Cook Island’s plans on renewable energy. He said the forum would also be looking at funding of renewable energy initiatives. The forum has been organized by UNDIO (United Nations Industrial Development Organisation), IISA (International Institute for applied Systems Analysis) and the Austrian government. Over 1,000 people are expected to attend.

Herald Issue 554 09 March
- Norm exposes Trio of Doom
- Briefs from PM’s media conference Tuesday
- Tourism Industry ponders $5 million draft strategy
- Norman George resigns from Cook Islands Party
- Letter of Resignation from CIP
- Norman selfish says Prime Minister

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