10 Feb 2009

Cooks call to rethink land tenure system

4:55 pm on 10 February 2009

The Cook Islands Deputy Prime Minister Sir Terepai Maoate says it's time to start rethinking the land tenure system which he describes as divisive and problematic.

In his address to the Cook Islands Research Association Future 2050 Summit, he says the system has fragmented the islands of the Cook Islands and caused deep divide between families.

He raised the issue of the large number of Cook Islanders who hold rights to land but do not live there.

Sir Terepai Maoate says when their forefathers left for overseas, those who remained home had full benefit of the land - but this is no longer the case.

"There are ways that the land can be used by the families who are here. I mean, it's really not fair, that a piece of land which belongs to the tribe or belongs to the family has been awarded to one of the members of the family - and that particular family has gone overseas and lived there for 20, 30, 40 years and have not bothered to come back. But the land is being kept for them."

He says if there is support, he will try to develop a policy that can benefit both those in the Cook Islands, and those who have migrated.