The new coin was officially launched by Finance Minster Mark Brown at Te Atukura grounds during the Te Manava Festival lunch on Wednesday.
On one side, it features a traditional Vaka sailing under the pacific constellations of Matariki, Tautoru (Orion’s Belt) and Taurus, and on the other side, is Queen Elizabeth II.
Minister Brown says it’s appropriate that the coin was ready in time for the Vaka festival, to truly celebrate how special the Vaka is to our society.
He says the new coins are a result of the coin reform undertaken by the ministry last year.
The purpose of the reform was to put more Cook Islands coins into circulation rather than having a prevalence of New Zealand coins, Brown says.
“We already have coins in circulation now but they’re an old style, so we went through a process of trying to produce a new line of coins.”
Brown says the 10c, 20c and 50c coins will be reduced in size and the $1 and $2 coins will change from silver to gold.
Brown says they will slowly reduce the number of New Zealand coins in circulation to make more room for Cook Islands coins, although they will both still be legal tender.
“There was a lot of consultation involved with the voyaging society including with the President, Ian Karika, and one of the master navigators, Tua Pittman, to make sure the constellations we used and the lines on the Vaka were authentic,” Brown says.
Once the design was agreed on and completed, it was sent to the Royal Australian Mint to create an image that would go on the coin.
Brown says the new coins came at a cost of NZD$1 million but will generate a profit of $3 million.
He says $4 million in new coins has been commissioned and will be put into circulation over time.
Traditional Master Navigator, Tua Pittman, says the Vaka design on the coin is huge honour for voyagers.
“I’m really happy with it and it’s a huge tribute to our voyaging traditions,” he says.
Pittman says the Vaka holds a special place in the heart of the Cook islands as the canoe is an icon of each islands existence.
“We all travelled on canoe, and through that canoe came all the different concepts of our being including our language, our conservation, ocean awareness, our song, our dance, everything,” he says.
Pittman says they wanted to put the Southern Cross constellation on the coin as well, but they felt it is already so widely used.
“The Matariki constellation in particular is very significant because if you can see this group of stars in the sky, you know you are in the Pacific.”
The new $5 coin, along with the 50th commemorative coin and the new 10c, 20c, 50c, $1 and $2 coins, will go into circulation on August 4.
Special editions of the $5 coin will also be available for purchase as a souvenir from this date. - Sarah Wilson
Comments sought on mental health
A new Ministry of Health policy on mental health has been put out to the public for consultation.
A draft of the policy was distributed to shops, banks and health centres on Rarotonga and outer islands on Monday, and copies are also available on the Ministry of Health website.
Policy manager Valentino Wichman says so far 10 comments have come through and they are mostly supportive.
He says he wants to hear ‘anything and everything’ people think about this new policy so he can gauge what the main issues are for the community.
“If the public want something that isn’t mentioned in the policy, through consultation I will be able to make changes to ensure the best policy is put forward to Cabinet.”
Wichman says the consultation period is also a great tool for raising awareness in the community so that the country can work towards better mental health outcomes.
The draft policy was put together and an implementation plan created at a Mental Health Policy Workshop last month and since then changes have been made to make the document more understandable to the general public.
Once the consultation period is over, Wichman will consolidate the comments and combine them with the implementation plan, which he says is the most important part of the policy.
Once the policy, plans and comments have been put together, it will be submitted to Cabinet for endorsement, hopefully by the end of June.
The policy itself is designed to both raise awareness of mental health and to provide better mental health services, Wichman says.
Certain agencies will be tasked with specific activities mostly to demystify mental health issues and eradicate any misconceptions people have.
“The main stigma is the idea that people with mental illnesses aren’t capable of doing anything or that mental health only encompasses extreme illnesses and psychosis, but it includes everything from schizophrenia to depression.”
Wichman says many people don’t understand mental health and are therefore scared of anyone with a mental illness.
“We want to help people understand what the symptoms of mental illnesses are, especially depression which is prevalent but not talked about as much as it should be.”
There are certain areas within health agencies that need to be strengthened and frontline staff will need to be trained in recognising symptoms of mental illness, he says.
“Everyone should be interested in making a comment for the future health outcomes of everyone,” Wichman says.
The deadline for submitting comments is 4pm on June 1.