Pacific Islands Forum: ‘Good to have Fiji back in the Pacific family’

Thursday August 15, 2019 Written by Published in National
Josaia Voreqe Bainimarama. 19081425 Josaia Voreqe Bainimarama. 19081425

Despite differences between the nations, Henry Puna says Cook Islands is set to receive many benefits from strengthening diplomatic relationships with Australia and Fiji.

The Cooks Prime Minister said he was opening a new high commission in Fiji before the end of March next year, and Australia is to open one in the Cooks at the same time.

“We have acknowledged Fiji as the hub for many things here in the Pacific,” said Puna, in Tuvalu.

Puna said the Cooks has many diplomatic partners who also have presence in Fiji and so having representation there would be very beneficial.

Puna also supported Fiji Prime Minister Josaia Voreqe Bainimarama’s bid to host the 2021 Pacific Islands Forum, after that country’s previous exclusion.

“It’s good to have the Pacific family complete again after quite a few years. So having Prime Minister Bainimarama around the table is a very positive development,” said Puna.

On the topic of seabed mining, though, Cook Islands is moving forward with seabed exploration whereas Fiji has proposed a 10-year moratorium on seabed mining in the Pacific and declared that in their own country.

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern told Cook Islands News that there would be a dialogue within the forum around oceans policy, especially on climate change effects on maritime boundaries and fisheries.

“You see the economic profiles of so many of the nations here who are relatively reliant on things like fishing licenses and the migration of tuna stock so we need to take a collective approach towards preserving some of those revenue sources.”

Puna said the Cooks were also stepping up their engagement in Australia.

Australia is to open an office in Rarotonga before the end of this financial year.  

“That would be a huge positive for us keeping in mind that we have 30, 000 Cook Islanders living in Australia and with that immediate contact we will hopefully in time obtain some benefits from Australia,” says Puna.

While Australia hasn’t been active in reducing their carbon emissions to slow the rate of climate change, they have pledged a new marine surveillance vessel that will replace the Kukupa and is confirmed for delivery in 2022.

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