Pa Ariki, paramount chief of Takitumu vaka, has made title land available for aged care accommodation and vowed to make it a personal priority on her return to Rarotonga.
Land in Turangi across from the old palace of Pa Ariki has been gifted to a retirement village project, to be called Punanga Aroa, A Place of Love.
Eight small villas as well as two larger villas will be built for destitute Cook Islands Maori elderly.
Led by Kevin and Tino Iro, the group Punanga Aroa will hold their first annual meeting on Monday and are now gratefully receiving donations.
Tupeariki Rangatira Sam Napa Jr will attend on behalf of his mother.
“We want to thank Pa Ariki on behalf of our committee for helping this dream to come to fruition,” Tino Iro said.
While delivering her speech at celebrations for the 30th anniversary of her coronation in Auckland, Pa Ariki said one of the hidden tragedies of the Cook Islands was the appalling conditions in which Rarotonga’s metua (elderly people) were forced to live out their final years.
It was an issue very close to her heart, she said.
“I am lucky. When I return to Rarotonga I can spend time at the beautiful palace, as well as living in my own home. I have a roof over my head, security and the support of my family and my people, around me,” she said.
“As the old ways pass, and so many of our younger people choose to relocate and live their lives in New Zealand and Australia, there is quite simply no one to care for our aged and infirm.”
Worse still, she said in many cases some elderly people are living in shacks and sleep outs that no-one could or should call a home.
“As Ariki, I believe my role is to offer what help I can to our metua. Many of you will know that over recent years I have been pushing to find some way to meet this real need,” she said.
“I have assured Government and others who share my concern for the care and health of our elderly, that I’m prepared to make title land available.”
“This is not the only way sensible use of Ariki lands can make a real difference to the lives of our people.”