HERALD WEEKLY ISSUE 650: 23 January 2013

Indigenous population under threat by growing foreigner numbers

Isn’t it great when Politicians actually ask the right question at the right time! Norman George’s query to Minister of Foreign Affairs and Immigration, Hon Tom Marsters during Parliament on Wednesdays’ sitting regarding a firm policy on how many foreign workers are allowed in the country is timely. Why, may you ask is it timely? Firstly, the Cook Islands 2011 Census was officially launched by Taggy Tangimetua on Tuesday morning which highlight some keys statistics relevant to foreigners (not only workers but also tourists and permanent residents) and secondly, regarding policy, not only do we need to be assured that there is a firm policy on foreign workers in place but more importantly that a ‘Population policy’ needs to be positioned way ahead of any foreign worker policy. This is a population policy that protects the spiritual, cultural and emotional needs of the indigenous population; that being us the Cook Islanders.
The fact is there is no ‘Population Policy’ at all in the Cook Islands that protects the indigenous population and this has been confirmed by the Director of Immigration, Mr Kave Ringi. Without a Population policy the issue of how many foreigners are allowed to come and work or reside in our paradise becomes irrelevant because once a population policy is in place, you then know what the capped percentage should be. It should be based on the mandate of the needs of the local population, while ensuring due care measures are in place for foreigners working or residing in the Cook Islands.
As Norman George correctly stated we already have 35 % of our population made up of foreigners and when a population reaches the 40% threshold, the indigenous populations’ (that is Cook Islanders) value systems are prone to being negatively impacted both socially and spiritually. We see this in the history of Fiji, Tahiti, and Hawaii to name a few. For many local people the clashing of cultural values between the diverse ethnic groups of people either working or residing in the Cook Islands has begun.
Unfortunately, what worsens the growing population of foreigners working or residing in the Cook Islands is the following statistics released from the census regarding excess tourists and Cook Island residents who are leaving permanently.
Are you ready for the shocking figures? The fact is from 2007 to 2011, there were (on average) 2031 tourists who did not return back to their place of residency each year and at the same period of time 1035 Cook Islanders left permanently each year too. This means in simple English that if this trend is left to continue, by 2016 Cook Islanders will be the minority population in their country at 24% while the foreign population excels to 76% of the population.
The need for a Population Policy is decades overdue. It calls for Political, Traditional and Religious leaders to get real and start carrying out their biblical and constitutional obligations of taking care of the local population yet still embrace and welcome foreigners to our paradise. However, it seems in this instance that the foreigner’s wellbeing in our paradise takes presidency over that of the local population.
House of Ariki President, Tou Ariki has responded to the Herald over his concern about the threat placed on the indigenous population. He has strongly expressed to the Herald, prior to his departure to Mauke for Marine Park business, that he will demand a meeting with Hon Tom Marsters, Mr Kave Ringi and Hon Mark Brown concerning the status of our local population. He has requested on several occasions to meet with the Hon Tom Marsters regarding permanent residency but to no avail. He is adamant that on his return, he will be the driving force to ensure that a population policy is created to protect our people. “It is our duty as members of the House of Ariki, to take this issue seriously and be assured, says Tou Ariki, I will make sure something is done.
One area where foreigners are impacting, is in imports of foodstuffs especially meat products. As big meat eating locals leave they are being replaced by foreigners who eat less meat. The import figures in MFEM reports clearly illustrate this downturn.

Herald Issue 608 21 March
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- Pacific Media Assistance Scheme Seeks Innovation
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- Rerekura Teaurere New Climate Change Coordinator
- News Briefs

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