Anniversary steering committee head Nick Henry says plans are well under way to make 2015 a truly memorable year for the Cook Islands’ as the nation marks 50 years of self-government in free association with New Zealand. ‘Inspire, engage, and celebrate’, are the three main themes for the celebration, which has been allocated a $500,000 budget.
“I presented the plans to both Cabinet and the Opposition caucus and they were well-received by both parties,” Henry says.
A competition for a logo to represent the celebrations is down to two designs and Henry hopes a final decision will be made soon.
But reflection on the past 50 years is needed for the country to look forward, and the recent political turmoil is a timely reminder of the need for political reform, he says.
“But there is also a need to continue to recognise the cultural differences between islands.”
Henry’s grandfather Albert Henry, the first premier of the Cook Islands, once said ‘no-one in the tribe to be left out, no one in the village to be forgotten.’
Those famous words highlight the fact that everyone has a role to play in the celebrations, including the many thousands of Cook Islanders who live in New Zealand and Australia, says Henry.
The year will see a wide range of exciting events. appealing to an equally wide range of tastes.
Celebrations will include a signature event each month, weaving together the importance of sustainability, wellbeing, and climate change.
“We also want to endorse the Kia Orana spirit and hospitality – Cook Islands people like to give without expecting anything in return.” Constitution Day on August 4 will be marked by morning and evening celebrations around Rarotonga.
But first father daughter performers Will and Annie Crummer will kick off the New Year in style with a performance at Nukupure Park.
They will also be performing in Aitutaki on January 3, using the Te Au o Tonga vaka as their stage.
To tie all the action together, a centre in Avarua will promote and sell tickets to events during the year.
“Anyone is welcome to volunteer to become information officers as part of this,” says Henry.
Calendars will also be published in CINews during the year to keep people up to date with the latest events.
It is hoped some events will continue annually to cement the legacy of the celebrations.
The year will also see a Night of Magic, and the ever-popular Miss Cook Islands pageant.
“Miss South Pacific may even be held here, but as Papua New Guinea is also vying to host it the competition is tough,” says Henry. The event may also feature a top international act – Henry hopes the band UB40 might be persuaded to perform here at some stage later in 2015.
The visually spectacular World Championships of Kite Surfing will be part of the celebrations and it is also hoped the Cook Islands National Art Theatre will be revived after a 10-year absence and will stage a production..
To promote awareness of climate change there will be a 50 Days of Cycling challenge between January 5 and August 4.
“If we can get people to cycle on at least 50 days during that time it will help lower carbon emissions and promote healthy lifestyles,” says Henry.
He also hopes that on Earth Day, April 22, as many people as possible will to cycle to school or work.
Despite the big budget all these events rest on private sector support and sponsorship.
“So far all the private sector businesses I have spoken to have been very positive, but at the end of the day we need to ensure a return on their investments,” he said.
“Cook Islands people need to take ownership of the celebrations.”