20 Apr 2020

Cook Islands opposition calls for govt to take a pay cut

5:59 am on 20 April 2020

The Cook Islands Opposition is calling on the government to take a pay cut, to show its solidarity with people suffering due to the Covid-19 threat.

Opposition leader Tina Browne announced over the weekend she will take a 15 percent pay cut over the next six months.

Mrs Browne said the Cook Islands is in a serious economic state and she will direct her pay cut to her constituency in Rakahanga.

Cook Islands Democratic Party leader, Tina Browne

Cook Islands Democratic Party leader, Tina Browne Photo: Cook Islands Democratic Party

Mrs Browne said she hopes Prime Minister Henry Puna will show unity with the people and "do the right thing."

"I think it's the right thing for all of us to do. When we hear about what's happening in the private sector and that one of the government agencies is going to take a pay cut, we should not think that we are immune to this. We should lead by example."

Tina Browne said she plans to meet with Mr Puna to discuss the matter.

Mrs Browne said the government had stated it had the ability to sustain operations for the next six months but beyond that it would need to obtain a loan to do this.

She said it was important those earning the highest salaries in government sacrificed now as many Cook Islanders were already doing.

"Our country and people are taking a big financial hit at this time and it is only right that we parliamentarians also make a sacrifice given that the entire country has undergone belt-tightening as hundreds have lost their jobs and have uncertain futures."

Cook Islands Prime Minister, Henry Puna, at the Asia Pacific Energy Leaders' Summit, 1 November 2018, Te Papa, Wellington.

Cook Islands prime minister, Henry Puna. Photo: RNZ / Johnny Blades

Mrs Browne said MPs should lead the way and show support and compassion for their people.

She said she had asked members of her caucus to volunteer pay cuts.

"This is a personal matter and they need to decide for themselves. I do know that some of my MPs are strongly in favour of directing a percentage of their pay into their constituency fund."

"New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is showing the World so much empathy and strong leadership during this world pandemic, She has actioned a salary cut for herself and her Cabinet including heads of ministries - we too can show the same for our iti tangata."

Mrs Browne said she would be informing the Ministry of Finance and Economic Management (MFEM) to direct her pay cut to the Rakahanga constituency fund to support the island.

Rakahanga is 1248 kilometres north of Rarotonga and is the second northernmost island in the Cook Islands. It has a population of around 90 people and its nearest neighbour is Manihiki 44km away.

"Life on Rakahanga has always been challenging because of its isolation and infrequency of freight so the next six months will be even more difficult for my constituency," the opposition leader said.