Her return home after undergoing a life extending refit was like being ‘born again’ said Apostolic Church Bishop Tutai Pere who had the honour of blessing the newly re-fitted patrol boat.
In fact, Bishop Pere conducted the original blessing for the patrol boat when she was acquired by the Cook Islands government in September, 1989 from Australia.
In his opening remarks, Bishop Pere honoured the five Police Commissioners and five Maritime Commanders of Te Kukupa that have led the police force since the patrol boat was first received by the Cook Islands.
He also paid special homage to former politician and well-known lawyer Norman George for instigating the negotiations for the Cook Islands to have a maritime patrol vessel when he was a Cabinet Minister in 1989.
Bishop Pere also sang the praises of the past and current crew members of Te Kukupa who have always maintained the vessel, which has been the rated the best-maintained patrol boat in the Pacific region.
The Pacific class vessel is one of 22 patrol boats built by Australia and donated to 12 South Pacific countries. Over the years the patrol boat and her crew have earned a reputation for treating their vessel with the highest respect, reflected in the boat’s top condition.
Her recent re-fit, funded by the Australia Defence Force and valued at $6.88 million, will further extend the life of the vessel which is due to be replaced by a brand-new patrol boat from Australia in 2019.
“We are delighted to Te Kukupa back home and in service,” says Bishop Pere.
The special welcome and blessing ceremony held at the Avatiu harbour was a proud day for the Cook Islands Police Service with dignitaries including Deputy Prime Minister Teariki Heather, Queens Representative Tom Marsters and New Zealand High Commissioner Nicholas Hurley attending the event.
Family and friends of crew members were also at the harbour to greet their men home with ei and hugs.