HERALD WEEKLY ISSUE 608: 21 March 2012

Pacific Islands Forum: words of thanks
Monday, 3 September 2012
The staging of the Pacific Forum is our region’s most important and significant event. The Forum is our political organisation where Leaders come together and work through issues and concerns that will determine the lives of all our people – as a region and right down to national level policies.
Playing host is an enormous task and I cannot stress enough that this responsibility carries a lot of weight – and the burdens are many, as well as varied. We were faced with a mammoth task so it’s important to realise that from the outset and recognise the type of pressures we were in for.
That’s why it’s so gratifying to me to now convey to everyone how well they performed. I know that the preparations that went into the hosting was intense – it involved training sessions, dry run-throughs, work-shopping together as teams, and focusing on timing and coordination. This was big. It’s quite understandable therefore that we had the potential of being overwhelmed by the reality. Once the ball started rolling and the actual events were getting underway, the realisation of the actions that needed to happen and happen without fail would have been tremendous for many of you.
I am pleased though – very happy that the scope of the responsibility was taken on board willingly and without any dramatic disruption. Accepting the responsibility was key and then following through with your roles with commitment was very important and I am pleased that we all pulled together for this historic occasion.
It was historic – no doubt about it. The Forum and its related meetings are a serious business when it comes to organisational aspects, and procedures. The series of meetings beginning with the Smaller Islands States, the Pacific ACP, the Forum Plenary, the Forum Retreat, and the Post Forum Dialogue – are now joined by the Polynesian Leaders Group of eight countries, which meet prior to all of these getting underway.
The fact that we spread our responsibility over two islands and a multitude of venues made logistics and procedures a central factor in the entire week. But let me begin with our children – our very important and smiling school children. This was the icing on our cake – and made all the difference in welcoming our Pacific Leaders to these shores. I want to credit all the schools involved – all those children who played this important role of partnering with our Pacific countries, and staging the welcomes at the gateway to our country and at the ceremonial opening.
The young performers and paata warriors and all the cultural protocol efforts at the National Auditorium were truly outstanding and amazing. We secured a huge impression right from the start and this was carried throughout the entire programme. The warmth of our people really shone through and touched the hearts of all the Pacific Leaders, our International Development Partners, and all their delegations.
The transportation and movement of people was also important and I am pleased that – given the range of meetings throughout the week – the drivers and liaison officers really produced a commendable effort.
And our Police men and women, along with the security staff, provided the all-important authority over these movements, and I thank the general public for your cooperation in making these jobs flow effortlessly.
The organisational aspects of staging these events around Rarotonga and Aitutaki were very demanding. Our Forum teams of coordinators and managers worked well with the hotels and restaurants and I am pleased that the services provided in meetings, functions, and entertainment was unequalled. The cooperation from our hotels was magnificent and the support from the Forum team players was deeply appreciated.
Apart from the Leaders themselves, the management of the spouses programme also made a key difference in hosting our special guests. We really made our mark on the Pacific Forum this year – and set a new level of hospitality and celebration of this important event.
There are so many to thank individually that I would not be able to do it justice here and now.
The Forum Coordinator Jaewynn MacKay led a very strong team of dedicated people and I thank them all. To Michael Henry, and his team’s efforts on Aitutaki, – your contributions truly showcased our Heaven on Earth. The Pacific Leaders were simply stunned by the beauty of Aitutaki.
To the teams of officials from the various government agencies – those who provided the necessary advice and support to my Cabinet and I – you have our deep appreciation for the many hours and efforts in keeping up the pace of our meetings, both regional and bilateral.
To my Cabinet colleagues, we have much to build on from these giant strides we have made with our fellow countries in the region. I am touched by your energy and unity, and commend you all.
And don’t forget, we achieved all this and more by hosting the US Secretary of State in our country. The Cook Islands has been headline news around the world these past few days – not just because Secretary Clinton’s visit coincided with our hosting of the Forum – but because of the lasting impression that we as a people, have made on one of the most important figures in the world today.
You can all be proud of that. The natural beauty of the Cook Islands made a huge impression on Leaders – but it was the natural beauty of our people that clinched it. Thank you everyone. Kia Manuia. -Prime Minister Henry Puna

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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