Ministry of Culture secretary Anthony Turua says the policy will centre around five areas.
“The first area is our native language, which we hope to strengthen to ensure that it is preserved, perpetuated and promoted into the future,” Turua said.
“Promoting our arts is our second goal. This includes performing and essentially all the traditional art forms that we hold dear and sacred.
“Third is preserving all our historical sites, including the national archives, the museum and library, so that current and future generations can learn about the history of the islands and the people.
“Number four is the cultural industry - how we can translate our cultural industry into a creative industry, leaning more towards the economic benefit of our culture.
Turua said this would include a look at whether the Cook Islands could market its cultural products, such as the ukarere (ukulele) and drums, and how the country could use traditional medicine and copyright to promote Cook Islands culture and obtain economic returns from it.
“And lastly, we will look at how we can increase national support for culture.”
The policy programme, which has been in the works all year, includes contributions from traditional leaders in the outer islands, as well as from the United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) and Pacific Community (SPC). It is the first policy of its kind in this country, and was approved by Cabinet two weeks ago. Turua said no other policy or programme had been developed by the Ministry before he had taken over as secretary.
“To develop a pathway I had to do some consultations (on) what the people want in terms of marrying their culture to sustainable development.
“It’s all about preservation of culture, and linking that to what the people actually want.”
Although the policy is set through to 2030, it will be worked under three-year strategies to be reviewed annually. The key focus still remains language, something that stretches back to the lack of progress in updating Cook Islands Maori.
“We really need to register the (new) words that we are using, because that hasn’t been done since 2003,” Turua said.
“There is now a Te Reo Maori commission, made of traditional leaders. So if there is a new word, we will tap this committee to update the language.
“And then we will work in partnership with Education, who will update their curriculum standards to include these new words.
“We’ll also be going to all the ministries and the other sectors and asking what new Maori words are being used within the workplace that are not in the dictionary.
“The committee will review the words, verify their meaning, and then under the Te Reo Maori Act that has to be recorded by the ministry.”
Although the policy was formulated with local Cook Islanders in mind, Turua believes there is no reason it cannot also benefit Cook Islanders living overseas.
“The Ministry of Culture website will be updated to include the new words, which will be accompanied by the English translation.
“We will also use the Hika app that tourism is running.”
Turua said since the Cook Islands joined the UNESCO World Heritage list in 2009, no historic sites had been registered.
He said the first aim was to register Highland Paradise marae tourist attraction and he hoped this would be ratified by next year.
More coverage of the five National Cultural Policy goals in next week’s CINews.