20 Jun 2022

Pacific News Briefs for 20 June 2022

11:47 am on 20 June 2022

Pro-independence party in Tahiti wins another assembly member

French Polynesia's pro-independence Tavini Huiraatira has won another assembly member in the aftermath of defections from the Tahoeraa Huiraatira.

James Heaux moved into the Tavini ranks after sitting as an independent for three months following his departure from the Tahoeraa.

James Heaux

James Heaux Photo: Supplied

Mr Heaux was a public television anchor before being elected to the assembly in 2018 as a member of Gaston Flosse's party.

The two other Tahoeraa members to move away this year joined the ruling Tapura Huiraatira.

Mr Heaux's move has increased the number of Tavini members in the 57-strong assembly to nine.

Air NZ pulling LA and Rarotonga flight a disaster says resort operator

A Cook Islands resort operator says it is a disaster that Air New Zealand won't reinstate its direct flight between Los Angeles and Rarotonga.

Until the pandemic closed the region's borders, Air New Zealand had flown the route once a week.

On social media, Tata Crocombe, who manages Sanctuary Rarotonga, said he suspects it's a bad strategy for Air New Zealand to 'dump the South Pacific and the Cook Islands specifically'.

The service had earlier been underwritten by the Cook Islands government to bring visitors from the US, which boosted local tourism, particularly during the southern summer.

Last month, a Memorandum of Understanding was signed between Air Tahiti Nui and Air Rarotonga for a code-share deal, tying the Cook Islands into Air Tahiti Nui's network in the US market.

The Cook Islands prime minister Mark Brown said Papeete could become a hub for travellers from the United States and France, as the airport in Tahiti gets 27 flights from the US and 13 from Paris a week, operated by five carriers.

Drought situation in Kiribati dire

The main groundwater reserve in Kiribati could reach critical levels within the next 25 weeks under the current drought faced by the country.

UNICEF Pacific chief and head of the joint UN presence in Kiribati Nick Rice Chudeau said the resulting saltwater intrusion at the Bonriki Water Reserve in South Tarawa would be irreversible.

Mr Chudeau said the challenge in Kiribati is that a lot of communities rely entirely on rainwater harvesting with ancient wells that are already supplying brown fish water.

He said children and their families living in these communities are already vulnerable and they are most at risk of the drought conditions.

"We are working with the Government of Kiribati, civil society organisations and our development partners to ensure that children and their families affected by the drought have access to safe drinking water by diversifying water supply sources through desalination, and water tracking, and increasing water storage capacity."

French Polynesia records more Covid cases

Another 24 Covid-19 cases have been recorded in French Polynesia in the last 48-hour reporting period.

The number of active cases is now 79, which is a minimal drop over the situation a week ago and well below the outbreak's peak last year.

The health authorities say there are no Covid-19 patients in the hospital.

The death toll of the pandemic is 649, with most fatalities registered during last year's outbreak with the Delta variant.

Vaccinations have continued and more than 81 percent of those 12 years and older have had two jabs.

Niue detects Covid case at the border

One case of Covid-19 has been detected at the border in Niue.

A spokesperson for Niue Health Department says the person was suspected as a historical case after returning a positive day one test.

But the case is now 'active' after testing positive on day three.

The traveller's isolation period has since been extended.

This takes the total number of cases detected at the border to 10, nine have recovered.

CNMI lifts travel testing requirement

The Northern Marianans have lifted the travel testing requirement for all in-bound travellers to the CNMI.

This follows the U.S. government's lead, which completely lifted its policy of requiring all incoming international travellers to submit a negative Covid-19 test result before boarding.

The CNMI government, however, still advises all travellers to continue to wear a well-fitted mask based on their personal preference after arrival if they must be around others, and if they develop symptoms, they should get tested at least five days after arrival.

With the new U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention metric, the CNMI is currently at Community-Level Low.