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Source: New Zealand Government

Kia orāna tatou kātoatoa i te aro’a ‘ua o te atua.

Nau mai haere mai Prime Minister and Mrs Brown to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade’s offices here in Auckland this evening.

Welcome also to all of our distinguished guests and especially warm Pacific greetings to our anau who have travelled all the way from Kūki ‘Āirani.

On behalf of Prime Minister Ardern and the rest of the Government may I say it has been our absolute pleasure to host you Prime Minister, as well as Mrs Brown and the rest of your delegation, here in New Zealand over the past few days.

Our discussions have been warm, detailed and fruitful – and have reinforced to me the importance of our relationship.

It’s a relationship – based on whakapapa, whanaungatanga, partnership in peace, and shared sacrifice in conflict. And, on the latter, I thank Prime Minister Brown for representing our Pacific whanau in his remarks, at the opening of the Pacific Memorial, Te Reo Hotunui o Te Moana nui a Kiwa, at the Pukeahu National War Memorial Park last Saturday.

As might be expected our discussions have had a particular focus on the partnership between our countries during this time of crisis, and how we move forward together towards the post COVID-19 era.

We have both suffered hardships due to the pandemic and I’d like to acknowledge here the particularly severe economic impacts that our anau in the Cook Islands are currently confronting.

So our korero throughout this visit has looked into the matters you might expect: vaccines, the prospect of a safe quarantine-free travel zone between us, and, crucially, how we might work with the Cook Islands to help maintain economic life until such a time as the vital tourism industry is back up and running – and thriving.

And this is also where many of you here tonight come in. Just as economic recovery will depend on New Zealand and the Cook Islands working closely together, it will also depend on us as Governments working closely in partnership with business.

It is only through all of our efforts that we can reconnect our peoples and resume our personal, family and business links.  And in doing this we will look to “build back better” – with even better economies and even closer cooperation on the issues facing our region, all based on an even stronger partnership.

In particular, we are committed to working with our Cook Islands anau on implementing your Economic Response Plan and assisting where we can with diversifying the Cook Islands economy. A more prosperous Cook Islands also helps build a more prosperous Aotearoa New Zealand.

And as we look to a sustainable and prosperous future partnership, we also look to working together on many of the issues facing our entire region: fighting COVID-19, developing the region’s economies, providing a strong Pacific response and voice on climate change, and countering emerging security challenges.

In our guest of honour this evening, Prime Minister Mark Brown, I can think of no better partner in these endeavours. He has deep experience and expertise on economic matters – as he has served for many years as the Cook Islands’ Minister of Finance.

During his tenure he has presided over a time of unprecedented economic growth – a testament to his capable financial management. This has helped buffer the Cook Islands during these challenging times, and the Prime Minister has also been instrumental in shepherding the Cook Islands’ Economic Response Plan.

Now he has stepped into the distinguished shoes of his predecessor, Hon Henry Puna, as Prime Minister – while also serving as Minister of Foreign Affairs and Immigration, Minister of Finance, Minister of Police, Minister for Energy and Renewable Energy and in many other important leadership roles.  I look forward to continuing to work closely with him and especially look forward hearing his remarks this evening.

It is now my great honour and privilege to invite the Prime Minister of the Cook Islands, the Honourable Mark Brown, to speak: nau mai, haere mai.

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