HERALD WEEKLY ISSUE 600: 25 January 2012

MMR and BTIB work together to support Manihiki pearl farmers
On Tuesday afternoon the Ministry of Marine Resources (MMR) held a meeting in conjunction with the Business Trade and Investment Board (BTIB ) for Manihiki pearl farmers. The meeting was a follow-up to the recent approval of New Zealand Aid (NZ Aid) funds as part of the Tripartite Arrangement for Cook Islands Pearl Industry Revitalisation 2011-2014. Pearl farmers in Manihiki can now begin the process of applying for loans under the scheme and the purpose of the meeting was to begin educating those interested parties in the loans eligibility and application process.
Rangi Mitaera-Johnson has been employed by MMR since December as a Business Advisory Services Support Officer in the Pearl Division of MMR. In her role she will be based on her home island of Manihiki and will play a pivotal role in supporting the pearl farmers in Manihiki to increase their understanding of good business practices and to ensure the correct record keeping processes required of them are carried out. Johnson says the meeting was about keeping farmers informed about the tasks taking place in Manihiki as far as MMR and BTIB are concerned, and providing understanding about where MMR and BTIB can assist farmers in securing loans through the scheme.
Regarding her position within MMR, Johnson commented, “Manihiki Pearl Farmers Association (MPFA) asked NZ Aid for this position because we identified that a lot of farmers are not... used to filling in all the details that are required, in any format. They are really good farmers, they are really good producers, they know the lagoon and the production line. But in some business areas - that is where they are a little bit weak. We, the [Manihiki] Pearl Farmers Association, like to look at ways where we can encourage our people [to] take on a little bit more. They’ve taken on the responsibility and the role of really good producers, so now I think it’s time they take on the other role where they become a little bit more business minded in their farming.”
Johnson and her husband Mataio Johnson are major pearl farmers in Manihiki and she says the role within MMR was something she decided to pursue because of her heavy involvement with the Manihiki Pearl Farmers Association (MPFA), since its establishment. “I really need to do this, especially for my island – in order for things to move ahead. I see my role as someone who can support the interests of the farmer and bring them up to that level of understanding.” She will draw on her own experience in the industry, as well as her personal knowledge of the Manihiki community, to anticipate what will be needed in Manihiki. “It is being a little bit more business savvy about the product that they have. I know we have a bit of a carefree attitude out there – and that’s ok – but we also need to incorporate business modules in our farm. If we can do that then I’m sure the pearl project with NZ Aid will really accelerate.”
Johnson expressed that the turnout for the meeting was very good and that the farmers who attended felt positive about the developments within the industry. “I think it lifts a lot of the morale of people up there and finally they feel like someone is listening to them.” She emphasised that this was necessary since Manihiki is “not an easy place to live in” due to the high costs of living, as well as the high cost of travelling between Manihiki and Rarotonga at $1,346 one way per adult. Johnson says the hope is that this boost in morale may also “revitalise the interest in pearl farming” in Manihiki. She commented that some of the concerns raised by farmers in the meeting were surrounding the marketing of Cook Islands pearls by the Cook Islands Pearl Authority (CIPA), as well as the issuing of permits by the Manihiki Island Council.
The work being carried out by MMR and BTIB involves carrying out various assessments of each farm, such as Benchmark Surveys, as well as conducting a census on the island. Johnson expressed that the needs of the farmers in Manihiki are diverse and the assessment of needs is vital not only to the loans application process but also to lifting the industry as a whole.
As a result of Tuesday’s meeting, MMR will be holding a meeting for local pearl technicians this Thursday at 4pm. The purpose of this meeting will be to get local technicians together to discuss issues of concern, to identify where the level of each technician is and look at ways to up-skill those that need it. Johnson says there is a need to strengthen the existing technician pool and also to form an association for technicians in order that they may voice their concerns as technicians in a unified fashion.
Going forward, Johnson is looking forward to creating new opportunities in Manihiki and hopes to run some training programmes on the island in partnership with BTIB. “We’re just looking forward to a lot of support from the farmers. This project was actually put together for the farmers. That’s what we were trying to show last night – that we are really looking to get that total support from the farmers. This is our part as MMR and BTIB coming together to support the farmer in every way.” -Ngariki Ngatae

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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