Cook Islands PM's incorrect figures come back to haunt
Cook Island residents are raising concerns about the Prime Minister's leadership after he denied the country had a serious depopulation issue.
Cook Islands residents are raising concerns about the Prime Minister's leadership after he denied the country had a serious depopulation issue.
Henry Puna is being accused of being misinformed and not doing his research after he quoted incorrect figures when he responded to New Zealand media last week.
Indira Moala has more.
At a press conference in Auckland, Henry Puna was asked what the government is doing to combat a declining population due to residents migrating to New Zealand and Australia. Mr Puna says because Cook Islanders are New Zealand citizens, they are free to travel to New Zealand and Australia, and you cannot stop people from travelling.
HENRY PUNA: A lot of people think that because we only have about 13 or 14 thousand Cook Islanders back home, that we have a serious de-population issue. We don't. I just want to remind you that back in 1928 when Sir Maui Pomare was Minister of Pacific Island Affairs, he did a census of the Cook Islands population. You know how many Cook Islanders there were back then? 2,000. So we have come a long way.
But our correspondent in the Cook Islands, Florence Syme-Buchanan, says that figure is incorrect and according to government statistics, the population count in 1928 was 10,082. Figures obtained from the Ministry of Finance show a 14 percent decline in the country's population over the last four years. James Beer of the opposition Democratic Party says Henry Puna doesn't know his own mathematics and hasn't done proper research. He says depopulation, especially in the outer islands, is a very real tragedy.
JAMES BEER: Most certainly in the outer islands, you will see that the issue of depopulation is a very real tragedy because houses are boarded up. People who used to live there and work and earn an income in living in those outer islands, no longer live there anymore because there's no economic activity, or very little economic activity.
Our correspondent Florence Syme Buchanan says people are getting tired of Mr Puna's misinformed and dismissive responses to the depopulation issue.
FLORENCE SYME BUCHANAN: There's been letters to the editor and people expressing disappointment or sheer disbelief that our Prime Minister would be making such misinformed statements. And there was one letter that actually said that it's because he's away so much of the time during the year on overseas trips that he is misinformed, that he is not aware of what's happening at home.
The Central Intelligence Agency Website also notes that the Cook Islands has the second fastest depleting population rate in the world, falling just under Syria.
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