While the final number of competitors and those travelling from the pa enua has not yet been fully confirmed, it is believed that more than 200 will be coming from Pukapuka alone – close to half the island’s total population.
“Numbers may fluctuate, as is expected, however the opportunity for our pa enua to participate is a priority for government this Te Maeva Nui,” said Ministry of Culture events officer Janette Browne.
The last time residents of the pa enua were brought to Rarotonga by the government for Te Maeva Nui was in 2015, which marked the 50th anniversary of the celebrations and the Cook Islands’ self-governance as a nation.
This year each team has been given a $15,000 grant, half of which was made available a month ago, with the remainder to be handed over when each team arrives in July.
“That’s preparatory money, to help them prepare for the competition,” explains Browne.
In addition to this, the government is paying freight charges to allow those travelling from the pa enua to bring both their costume wear and other necessaries for the dance competitions with them, as well as sale goods for Te Maeva Nui trade week markets at Constitution Park. Freight will also be paid on goods purchased in Rarotonga for transport back to the pa enua.
“We’ve encouraged the outer islands to take advantage of the trade week and to set up booths,” said Browne.
“They’ll bring goods. When I went out for preliminary meetings, I encouraged them to bring their oils, massage oils, baskets – even the drinking nuts. Bring as much as they can. It’s the opportunity for them to generate revenue.
“And if they’re able to double the quantity, all the better. We’ve told them to maximise every opportunity in which to generate revenue, for them to be able to buy here and then go back.”
As to when and how those from the pa enua will be getting to Rarotonga, flights have already been chartered to bring the southern group island teams over from July 13-15.
But while those from the north will be travelling by boat, Culture secretary Anthony Turua says the ministry is “still finalising the dedicated transport to bring the northern group delegations”.
It is expected they too will be on Rarotonga by July 15 at the latest however, allowing each team at least two weeks of on-island rehearsal time before the dance competitions start.
After Te Maeva Nui concludes on Monday, August 6, the departure of teams from the northern group islands is set for August 13, with the southern group islands departing from August 7 on Air Rarotonga, said Browne.
In addition to all those arriving in Rarotonga from the pa enua for Te Maeva Nui, there will also be teams and participants travelling from New Zealand and possibly even further afield.
While the possibility of teams travelling from Australia, Samoa, Tonga, French Polynesia and China has yet to be confirmed, a Kurakaupapa (Takitumu) team from the East Coast of New Zealand will be competing.
There will also be a small Royal New Zealand Air Force contingent arriving for the celebration, as well as a number of Cook Islanders living in New Zealand, including an estimated 100 Manihikians and 50 Rakahangans.