HERALD WEEKLY ISSUE 608: 21 March 2012

News in Brief

Government has an illogical position on aid
The Minister of Finance Mark Brown was on Cook Islands Television recently saying that the Government as per the Cook Islands Party (CIP) will find it extremely difficult to (as it pledged in one of its manifesto) have the country no longer dependent on foreign aid.
Frankly speaking, it was a bizarre admittance by the Minister. It seemed to me a clear case of eating humble pie especially when it was a topic and policy campaigned by the CIP during those moments of “blind moments of ignorance” of the financial reality of small countries like ours. One can only say that the policy was an ill-conceived in the hysteria of a political popular theme of the Cook Islands being self-funding and sovereign. Yes, the anti-aid platform can be a great campaign tool but in this case the Minister is saying, “his party spoke too soon”.
In fact the current Government by its deliberate neglect of the “cost saving” measures put in by the Democratic Government has made foreign aid that much more important to its very existence. As Minister of Finance he had introduced a supplementary budget in deficit and now he is preparing a main budget for July 2012 with a greatly increased deficit of over $10 million. Sadly, despite the availability of assistance from New Zealand and Australia along with the European Union in terms of budgetary aid – the expenditure of the Government far outweighs incoming help.
Aid is not the issue here – it is poor planning and management, poor appreciation of the global financial crisis, poor understanding of economics and poor ability to distinguish as to what are the priorities of the country from his natural politically driven commitments. In other words, it is not what is important for the country at stake here; instead this Government under Minster Brown is driving issues that are politically charged justifying allegations of a Government abusing taxpayer’s money just to stay in power.
A common feature now of the Minister’s political character is what we Maori people call “rere rere” or “jump jump”. He was too “jump jump” with the withholding tax, the same with the Air New Zealand company tax and with potential hikes to departure tax or even the contemplation that the Government might increase Value Added Tax.
We now know that he had conceded that this country will not be rid of aid assistance because he plans to borrow huge loans and then beg for aid to implement a number of CIP projects such as a water tank for every household on Rarotonga. Is this really feasible? Is this the answer? We also know that the Government will not tax Air New Zealand as a company registered in New Zealand but trading in Rarotonga because as pointed out by myself and the Opposition – that plan will put at risk the jobs of a number of Cook Islanders working at the airport and with Air NZ.
Really, combine the Green Energy project by the Prime Minister and Minister Brown’s recent announcements, the Cook Islands is potentially looking at over $200 million in debt. Added to that is the “wishful thinking “of the two of them that aid donors will just roll out the bucks. Well, there’s always a catch and I thought that was the whole idea of trying to be less dependent of aid – so that we would stand on our own two feet.
It brings me down to this common denominator. Do the basics and you won’t go wrong. -Wilkie Rasmussen, Leader of the Opposition.

Positive feedback on Social Welfare
I want to take this opportunity to acknowledge the many hundreds of our people who have taken part in the consultations on the independent Asia Development Bank (ADB) review of our social welfare system. I want to repeat that the Government has not yet accepted any of the recommendations in the review report. This review was instigated by the last Government and its suggestions along with public feedback will go to a steering committee that will develop a response for Government to consider.
Last week I briefly touched on what the report said about the elderly pension payments, this week I want to look at what it says about other payments
The caregiver payment is a grant to assist people who give full time care to our elderly and people with disabilities. The current payment rate is $150 a month, equivalent to $1,800 a year. The independent ADB report highlights the need to: clarify the eligibility criteria to reduce discretion; increase the rate of payment and make provision for this payment within legislation.
A power subsidy is provided to elderly people living alone with an income of less than $600 a month; or, two elderly people with a combined income of less than $1000 a month. The current payment rate is $60 per quarter, paid directly to Te Aponga Uira by the Ministry of Internal Affairs.
The report recommends stopping this payment.
A funeral assistance payment is made to surviving family members to help cover funeral costs of a welfare beneficiary equivalent to six months of the benefit that person was receiving. In practice, payment has also been made when a death overseas has occurred, irrespective of whether the person was on a Cook Islands benefit or not. Sometimes there have been disputes about which family member should receive the payment.
For funeral assistance the report suggests a grant:
(a) to cover actual costs up to six months equivalent welfare payment (on an invoice basis only); or
(b) valued at a set rate irrespective of welfare payment;
A Christmas Bonus payment of $50 is made to people who are receiving an old age, child, destitute, infirmed and caregivers welfare payment. The report also recommends removing this payment.
Feedback from public consultations show:
• Support for increasing the rate of payment for caregivers. There is some public concern that the current payment rate is inadequate and that the rate should be varied to reflect the level of care provided.
• A positive reaction to the introduction of a “one rate for all” funeral assistance payment, allowing for better long term planning as the current payment is affected by any increases made to benefit payments.
• Public opinion is divided on the removal of the power subsidy payment. The cost of living is the main reason for some wanting to retain this payment if benefit increases do not occur.
• Little support for the removal of the $50 Christmas Bonus.
Any person wanting to make comment on the ADB review report options can still do so by 30th of April 2012. Contact Deb Ave, National Program Manager, phone/fax: (682) 25837
Email: debbieave-jfpr@intaff.gov.ck -Prime Minister Hon Henry Puna

Reaching out to artists
The University of the South Pacific (USO) is reinforcing its commitment to facilitating the development of the arts by reaching out to Pacific nations with USP campuses and assisting their development of the arts and education.
On Tuesday afternoon the Herald caught up with the USP’s outreach coordinator Seiuli Allan Alo Va’ai at the Ministry of Cultural development where he was meeting with Secretary for Culture Sonny Williams and the liaison person for the Creative Industries, Mahiriki Tangaroa.
Seiuli is based at the USP’s faculty of Arts, Law and Education in Samoa. He is visiting Rarotonga this week meeting interested parties and stakeholders to discuss the Pacific Outreach Programme. At 4.30pm on Thursday he will consult with members of the local art sector at the Ministry for Cultural Development conference room. Invited to attend are persons involved in the various art sectors such as performing arts, literary arts, visual arts, music and film making.
He will also be visiting five other Pacific nations including Tonga, Niue and Tokelau.
At the meeting on Thursday he will discuss the programme, talk about arts and education initiatives in Samoa and discuss the consultation process.
Seiuli is looking at what the Cook Islands key initiatives are. He will be looking at relationships, connections and challenges and identifying gaps. He is on a scoping exercise.
He said the USP is currently developing a fine arts programme which will be offered next year.
In Samoa Seiuli also teaches Pacific Dance Aerobics and he has a large following. -Charles Pitt

Depopulation: are the real issues being addressed?
As depopulation occurred over many years, the repopulation of our islands is not going to happen overnight – it will take a number of years.” This is the message from Finance Minister Mark Brown on this long-term issue affecting our nation.
Frequently the Herald receives reports of citizens leaving our shores and the reasons for leaving are inevitably the same: Many Cook Island families are not earning enough to live on. Cook Islanders are subsequently migrating overseas to earn enough money to amass savings, to pay off loans and to attempt to create a decent quality of life in general for themselves and their families.
Simultaneously, employment policies don’t seem to be helping to address the situation. Cases have been brought to the attention of the Herald where jobs are being awarded to foreigners over and above suitably qualified Cook Islanders. Also, many Cook Island teachers earn less than their non-Cook Island colleagues, who are offered subsidies over and above the normal local salary in order to attract them to fill positions that cannot be filled by locals. While the need to provide suitably qualified teachers for our children is vital, the question still remains - why are many Cook Islanders earning less than foreigners?
Minister Brown noted some of the measures taken so far by the government to address the depopulation issue include the introduction of the baby bonus, as well as ensuring that Government foots the bill for the laying of new power cables into uneconomic areas. He also hopes the review of the banking system will find a way to bring down interest rates for borrowers. The Minister commented that the Cook Islands needs to “send positive messages out to our people in New Zealand and Australia” in order to attract those already residing overseas back home. However circumstantial evidence would suggest that the issue of how to stop Cook Islanders already living here from departing is still not being addressed and, indeed, the solution “will not happen overnight.” -Ngariki Ngatae

Allocate uninvestigated land on Rarotonga to outer islanders?
Finance Minister Hon Mark Brown says he would like to consider and look into whether land that has been deemed under the land tenure system as uninvestigated, should be made available for outer islanders who have no land rights on Rarotonga.
The Minister believes this will contribute to addressing the depopulation issues that plague the country. He says access for outer islanders to land on Rarotonga will encourage those who migrate from their homes within the outer islands to stay in Rarotonga, rather than continuing on overseas to countries such as New Zealand and Australia.
For the outer island population who do not wish to leave their home islands, access to affordable travel between their homes and the capital island is imperative to assisting economic growth in the outer islands. The introduction of a rival domestic airline, Kia Orana Air, will be key in addressing this need. However the fledgling airline has experienced continuing delays in attempting to secure land for a hangar. The Minister blamed the “inertia” within the public service for this situation. He said that while due diligence and due process must be followed where a state-owned enterprise is involved, those within the public service need to use discretion to identify which cases warrant more urgent and immediate response. “If a business wants to come in and provide a service which will see better and cheaper services and products to the consumer, then it’s something that we really have to… try and encourage.” -Ngariki Ngatae

New filter gets thumbs up!
With a new 5 system ultra violet water filter being fitted, the residents of Tupapa now have access to filtered water rid of the common water born contaminants such as bacteria and viruses. Joining a number of other villages in obtaining a public water filter Tupapa’s member for parliament Hon George Maggie is the most recent to join the growing trend. The water filtering system, located at the entrance, is one of the recent installments to the Tupapa Meeting House. Maggie told the Herald on Wednesday morning it was sponsored by the NZ High Commissioner John Carter. Despite the location Maggie assures that access to the water is not limited to the residents of Tupapa but is for use by any member of the public. -MAria Tanner

Technician lines up ‘testing’ challenge

Network Test Technician for Te Aponga Uira, Gabriel (Gab) Rani, is branching out into new challenges this week as he takes up an overseas attachment in New Zealand. Gab will be in the South Island for a month, working closely with a Canterbury-based contractor, which services the national power industry.
The TAU Test Technician’s experience will be challenged firstly by heading South to the contractor’s Christchurch location, which has seen its fair share of instability over more than a year of quake activity. In fact, the New Zealand contractor – Connetics – has completed numerous projects in the region over the years, including work on the famed Christchurch Cathedral, which has been in precarious state with an uncertain future since the February 2011 tragedy.
The benefits of the work attachment, however, are extensive as Gab will be engaged at the forefront of more advanced technology, especially in the area of fault location and analysis of cable systems.
“I think it will be a good chance to see how we will be able to utilize the newer technology here,” he says. Broadening the experience with testing technology and its applicability to local conditions will be invaluable in building TAU’s capacity and expertise.
And working with a multi-utility service provider also allows the TAU Technician to be exposed to the range of projects Connetics undertakes with overhead and underground networks and its specialized maintenance teams.
This opportunity to expand TAU’s Network Test capability was seized by Gab, who took the initiative to gain assistance through the Department of National Human Resources Development. Established ‘connections’ with Connetics staff also proved valuable and the attachment is now serving as motivation for the power utility’s personnel to pursue advancement in their respective fields of work.
Gab’s first week in NZ will be spent in orientation in Wellington.

Raina Trading robbed again
Raina Trading has been robbed again and distraught owner June Baudinet is calling on the government to “wake up and do something”.
An emotional Baudinet discovered her store had been robbed for a second time sometime during the long Easter weekend. June told the Herald on Tuesday she didn’t think it would happen again and added that she was “pretty gutted” when she received the bad news from one of her workers.
Among the stolen items was Baudinet’s Asus laptop with months of work stored on it for her impending Privy Council case, which she is scheduled to leave the country for this weekend. She made a public plea to keep an eye out for this stolen property, “Whoever is out there… if they can look in their house. What is the point of taking somebody’s work they can’t use?”
According to Baudinet, it appeared that a young child was used in order to gain access to the premises through a small gap in the security window of the store. “It’s sickening… The reality that we’re teaching our little children this kind of behaviour… it’s sad.”
Baudinet says she isn‘t sure what the police will be able to do in recovering her stolen goods, but emphasised the need for the community to come together and address the problem of petty crime. “Get the whole country behind to clean up this mess. The leaders of the country: stop ‘Hollywooding’ around! They need to sit down and work with the people and find a solution.” -Ngariki Ngatae

Council for Cultural and Creative Industries within 7 months
Further to last Wednesday’s Arts meeting at the Aotearoa Centre, this release is to briefly explain the background and developments for Cultural & Creative Industries. This initiative by government is to support the growth and development of the Cultural & Creative Arts sector.
1. Recognition and support for the Cultural and Creative sector is outlined in the National Sustainable development Plan (NSDP) 2011-2015, whereby the establishment of an Industry Council, for Creative Cook Islands is part of the formal process.
2. The Mission Statement for Cultural & Creative Industries (C&CI), as per NSDP, is to “ensure that Cultural & Creative Industries are a key force in job and wealth creation and nation building”. The strategy plan was developed and completed following a Public Consultation held at the National Museum on the 30th March 2011.
3. The Ministry of Cultural Development has been charged with the task of facilitating the establishment of Creative Cook Islands (an independent arts funding agency) and is awaiting budget approval before proceeding.
Recommendation for the establishment of Creative Cook Islands can be found in the National Budget Consultation 2012-2013.
4. In March 2011, the Economic Taskforce recommended the establishment of the C&CI Interim Committee, whereby this directive was carried out by the C&CI Focus Group. The members of the C&CI Interim Committee were elected at a Public Meeting on the 11th May 2011. The purpose of the C&CI Interim Committee is to initiate and develop the “terms and references” for the establishment of Creative Cook Islands.
5. The 15 members on this committee are cross-sectoral representing the following sectors; Education, Tourism, Heritage Sites, Performing Arts, Literary Arts, Visual Arts and Moving Image. Among the elected members is Chairman, Sonny Williams, and Secretary, Mahiriki Tangaroa.
Once the budget for the Council has been approved the Ministry of Culture will be convening a meeting with the C&CI Interim Committee. The expected timeframe for the establishment of the Council is an estimated 6-7 months.
Any proposed initiatives and recommendations that may assist in the establishment of Creative Cook Islands are welcomed.
Mahiriki Tangaroa
Cultural & Creative Industries Interim Committee

Last Day at Tereora
I felt like celebrating when I heard that Thursday was going to be the very last day of school. No more getting up at six in the morning, no more homework. Joy! I was debating on whether or not I should go to school or ditch. I realized that ditching the last day of school would be really shallow, so I made the hard decision to get out of bed and get ready for school. Even though it was the last day, would you believe that we had to go in uniform? It was only for a little while, but even so, some kids were whining about it.
On the bus, there was a hot discussion about which House would win the Touch Tournament. Oh, did I mention that the Tereora Inter-House Touch Tournament was also held on that day? Well, now you know. I was wearing yellow, representing House Two. You know, the house full of winners, all time-champions, so on and so forth. I was arguing with a “bus buddy” who was in House Four. We threw insults at each other just like passing a ball. I’d like to think that I won that particular argument.
We finally arrived at Tereora College. I wanted to walk around for a bit, seeing that I wouldn’t be at school for the next two weeks. I met up with a few of my friends at the hall, since we were going to “Church” first. An Easter service was being held before the Touch Tournament, so that was the reason that we had to come to school in uniform. It was a quiet affair, except for the part where a representative of the church Celebration On The Rock, Tony Fe’ao, who is also a Minister shared his sermon. It was really funny, as he related his sermon to things that the youth would understand. We praise you, Tony!
Finally, the Easter service was brought to an end. My friends and I were trying to figure out where to change, as the girl’s bathroom was packed to the roof. I managed to get a spot, but the others had to find somewhere else, leaving me O.T.L. Thanks a lot, guys! I had a hard time trying to find them. I ended up looking like a fool, going back and forth. I came to the conclusion that I wasn’t going to find them, so I followed the crowd. We assembled at the grand stand, each student seated at their respective house. I think I decided to be a traitor and went to House One, where a couple of my friends were. I was the only person wearing yellow, and some House One students were giving me the evils.
The day passed on so quick. House Two scored a lot of tries, but in the end, House Three prevailed once again. I demanded a re-match, but of course, nobody was interested in my opinion. House Three triumphant, coming first placing, House One holding the second position, House Two in the third seat (Bleh!) and House Four in fourth placing. -Norma Ngatamariki

Herald Issue 608 21 March
- Terms of one China Policy document should be reviewed
- Pacific Media Assistance Scheme Seeks Innovation
- Successful NZ visit by PM
- Rerekura Teaurere New Climate Change Coordinator
- News Briefs

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