23 May 2019

Cooks Opposition left out of NZ visit

2:04 pm on 23 May 2019

The opposition Democratic Party is disappointed with a change in the programme for this week's New Zealand ministerial trip to the Cook Islands which has resulted in the removal of their meeting with the delegation.

Police Minister Stuart Nash

Stuart Nash Photo: RNZ / Dom Thomas

The delegation, led by New Zealand's deputy prime minister Winston Peters and Police and Fisheries minister Stuart Nash, will be in the Cook Islands this week for the annual Joint Ministerial Forum between the two countries to be held on Aitutaki.

A spokesperson for the Democratic Party said they were slated to meet the group in the initial programme but the meeting was removed in the final edition.

The party told the Cook Islands News that the programme was prepared by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs with input from the Office of the Prime Minister.

The spokesperson claims the removal occurred because of a number of concerns that the Opposition wanted to raise with the delegation, including law and order.

In a statement, the Cook Island Prime Minister Henry Puna's office said the seventh forum between the two countries was expected to build on the outcomes of last year's meeting hosted by New Zealand at the Waitangi Treaty grounds.

"Discussions this week are expected to build on the positive outcomes from last year which included pension portability, strengthened ministry to ministry links and support for water and sanitation," the statement said.

"Discussions this week are also expected to articulate priority areas for co-operation between the two governments in the years ahead."

Mr Puna said their political and economic relationship with New Zealand was in good health, and it enabled a mature broad-ranging discussion on a number of national, regional and international issues.

"The terrorist attack on Christchurch was a brutal reminder of how vulnerable every country is to acts of terrorism, and we will be discussing with New Zealand strengthened security co-operation at the national and regional levels and beyond," he said.

The two governments are also expected to discuss better health outcomes for all Cook Islanders through improved health workforce capability and strengthened connections between health systems.

Talks are also expected to extend to working together to maximise the benefits and minimise any risks from the Cook Islands graduating to high income country status next year, and supporting the development and maintenance of resilience and accessible infrastructure in the Cook Islands.