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Source: New Zealand Government

Banquet Hall, 29 March 2021
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Tēnā tātou katoa e tae mai nei i tēnei pō

E ngā rangatira nongā motu i Kuki Airani, nau mai haere mai ki Aotearoa

Ko te tūmanako e whai mai nei te mana o te wāhi-ngaro ki runga

ki tō tātou noho tahi arā te huhuinga tangata,

Tūra Hawaiiki!

Prime Minister the Honourable Mark Brown, Mrs Brown and your delegation all the way from the Cook Islands

Parliamentary colleagues, representatives of the diplomatic community, members of the Institute and to everyone here this evening: Kia orāna tātou kātoatoa

It is a pleasure to welcome you here tonight, and certainly fitting that the first official visit New Zealand has hosted since COVID is from one of our closest and most special partners: the Cook Islands.

Although we’re separated by some 3000 km of Pacific Ocean, the links between the Cook Islands and Aotearoa reach all the way back to Ipukarea (the homeland) and the days of Te Ui Tupuna (the Polynesian voyagers).  And, in the more recent past, our modern relationship was first formalised in the early 1900s.

But the strength of our current partnership isn’t just a by-product of our shared past.  The strength of our partnership is also a product of the many threads that continue to connect us today. 

As well as our political, economic, cultural and social bonds, we have enduring whakapapa links; we are part of the same realm; we have a special constitutional relationship; we share the same New Zealand citizenship; and there are more than 80 000 Cook Islanders living in Aotearoa –  represented in our Parliament and here tonight are the Honourable Poto Williams, Tangi Utikere and Teanau Tuiono

During this era of COVID, we have seen just how strong the bonds between our two countries truly are.  Together we have been able to successfully navigate what COVID has thrown at us, and even seize back some normality – including through the resumption of one-way quarantine-free travel from the Cook Islands to New Zealand.

But while New Zealand has been spared the level of casualties others have suffered, and the Cook Islands has been blessed to remain COVID-19 free, neither of our countries has been spared the economic and social repercussions of the pandemic.

We are deeply concerned by the devastating impact COVID has had on the Cook Islands’ tourism industry – the backbone of its economy.  We know this has been a challenging time for the people of the Cook Islands, and have been impressed with the way in which the Cook Islands government has responded, including through its economic response plan.  Even so, with no clear end to COVID in sight, we are all too aware of the bleak economic outlook the Cook Islands is facing.

For our part, New Zealand will continue to do all we can to support the Cook Islands. A successful vaccination rollout plan and resurgence planning helps us towards an objective of open borders and resuming tourism travel.

Let me assure you Prime Minister: New Zealand remains absolutely committed to partnering with the Cook Islands to ensure our collective safety, well-being, resilience and prosperity.  After all, we are more than just neighbours. Our shared sense of whanaungatanga means that what we do together to tackle economic impacts while maintaining vigilance about the health response will have long term benefits.

Over the last year, as partners, we have been primarily focused on weathering the COVID storm.  It is timely that we now look beyond COVID, and explore what more we can do to increase resilience, including that of our partnership.

In the post-COVID era, We will need to call on the navigational skill sets of our tupuna as we seek out stable and reliable relationships to traverse the economic, social and environmental challenges faced.

With this in mind, the theme for tonight’s keynote speech by Prime Minister Mark Brown is timely: “Beyond Covid, Enduring Relationships and Transformative Partnerships”.

Before I welcome the Prime Minister to the podium, I would like to acknowledge the instrumental role he has played in keeping the Cook Islands COVID-free, and in protecting the Cook Islands from the full force of the economic impacts of the pandemic.  Before taking up his role last year as Prime Minister, he served the Cook Islands in various roles, including as Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister.  During the decade he served as Finance Minister he presided over a period of unprecedented economic growth that has helped buffer the Cook Islands during these challenging times. 

Now, as Prime Minister, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Minister of Finance, Minister of Police, Minister for Energy and Renewable Energy and in his many other distinguished roles, he has continued to serve his country and his people with dedication, skill and mana.  I look forward to hearing his remarks this evening as I know you will too.  

It is now my honour to welcome our distinguished key note speaker to the podium: the Prime Minister of the Cook Islands, the Honourable Mark Brown: nau mai, haere mai.

Tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou, tēnā tātou katoa.  Meitaki ma’ata e manuia. 

MIL OSI