Successful NZ visit by PM
Superannuation portability, the return of young people back to the Cook Islands and building unity amongst Cook Island communities in the South Island - were some of the key topics of discussion with Prime Minister Hon Henry Puna when he visited New Zealand last week.
His visit to Christchurch, Ashburton, Dunedin and Invercargill was one of the first in many years by a Cook Islands Prime Minister, something applauded by locals including one person resident in Invercargill for 25 years and who thanked Prime Minister Puna for not forgetting their community and who said he had never known such a visit to take place in all the time he had lived there.
Approximately 150 people turned up to meetings with the Prime Minister in Invercargill, many who had originally been attracted to employment in the freezing woks there and who had now grown roots with first and second generations born and raised there.
Groups of 60 or more people also attended meetings in Dunedin and Christchurch where Prime Minister Puna gave an overview of the Government’s direction and priorities as set out in the National Sustainable Development Plan.
He informed them that the Government supported superannuation portability and would continue to discuss it with the New Zealand government.
Prime Minister Puna encouraged those at the meetings to return home to assist with the development of the nation, making a particular call to young Cook Islanders who were pursuing tertiary qualifications. He also asked Cook Islands communities in the South Island to become more united and to work together in dealing with community issues.
Whilst visiting Christchurch, the Prime Minister met with Mayor Bob Parker and with 15 heroes and heroines who had travelled to the Cook Islands for a week-long break in recognition of their efforts during the earthquake disaster. “They were very appreciative and showed a lot of emotion when thanking us for the opportunity they had to come to here,” said the Prime Minister.
Mayor Bob Parker also briefed the Prime Minister on reconstruction developments for the city and thanked the Cook Islands for its contribution to the earthquake appeal especially the contribution made by the people of Aitutaki.
In Dunedin the Prime Minister held meetings with the Vice Chancellor and Pro-Vice Chancellor of Otago University and with National MP for Otago, Mike Woodhouse. In Ashburton, the Prime Minister met with a group of 30 Cook Island locals and also visited local Mayor Angus McKay.
Prime Minister Puna said he was grateful for the warm reception afforded him by Cook Islands communities in the South Island and thanked all those involved for the invitation extended to him.
“It was particularly rewarding to meet our people who have lived there for many years and to see new generations of our people who have grown up in the South Island. My conversations with them were very fruitful and I want to thank all those involved for their generosity as hosts.”
Herald Issue 608 21 March
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