People loss a festival risk

Thursday July 30, 2015 Written by Florence-Syme Buchanan Published in Outer Islands
Cook Islands Prime Minister Henry Puna. Cook Islands Prime Minister Henry Puna.

The risk of indirectly helping to depopulate sister islands by bringing Pa Enua teams to Rarotonga to compete in Te Maeva Nui has to be accepted by government, says Cook Islands Prime Minister Henry Puna.


It is always a possible consequence of bringing Pa Enua teams here for the annual celebration, he says.

However, if government was to dwell on concerns about Pa Enua performers staying on in Rarotonga or leaving for overseas rather than returning home, ‘we would never have any celebrations’, the prime minister says.

“If we were to look at that we would never be able to bring our people together (for Te Maeva Nui celebrations). Depopulation will always be with us.”

The Statistics Office has no figures on how many people are brought to Rarotonga and then return to their Pa Enua.

Puna says it’s an important issue, but ‘heaven forbid that any leader should put a restriction on our people, even if we can see there is a real risk of depopulation’.

While many people have tried to put a ‘face’ on depopulation and the reasons for it, politics is not to blame, the PM says.

 “People travel because people choose to travel, they want to travel. We’re humans and we always think the grass is greener on the other side. We show that with our feet – we move.”

Puna says he’s thought deeply about Cook Islands depopulation and the single reason why people leave is because ‘we can’.

“And that has all to do with being New Zealand citizens and that is where we should be having our discussions.”

Head of Statistics Taggy Tangimetua says questions asking departing Cook islanders whether they were leaving permanently and their reasons for leaving were added to departure cards in an effort to better understand the reasons why Cook Islanders continue to emigrate.

“But capturing those responses can be very subjective.”

She says statistics show the country’s population of under 15,000 has remained ‘quite stable’ over the last five years because emigrating Cook Islanders are being replaced with incoming foreigners. Ethnic groups like Fijians and Filipino’s do not require permanent residency status to be included in residential population figures.

Just 54 people now remain in Manihiki after the performing team travelled to Rarotonga for Te Maeva Nui. Statistics show the Manihiki residential population to be about 233.

Puna says an additional 30 people will be returning after the celebrations to spend time on the island.

The northern group population is currently 1,112 and the southern group 3,920.Rarotonga’s resident population stands at 10,572.


  • Comment Link Makiroa Wednesday, 05 August 2015 23:19 posted by Makiroa

    The only reason my father came to New Zealand was to earn money to buy a tractor and a bulldozer to help him farm the pineapple plantation, because all the kids were leaving to study at Tereora College and eventually University in New Zealand. He would not be able to farm the plantation on his own. I also think that there were no more demands for pineapple in Mangaia. My father came to New Zealand and eventually brought the family over. He found he was only earning enough money to look after the family and there was nothing left to save to buy his bulldozer and his tractor. So he never achieved his goal and he and my mother both died never to see Mangaia again. I agree with Jean Marie Williams. There needs to be ways to help the people farm their land so they can make a living. That way people can return home. Living in New Zealand and Australia is not paradise. We earn more money then in the Cook Islands but then most of the money goes on bills. The truth is Cook Islanders leave to earn money, so they can afford to return home and be financially able to build a home and support a comfortable life. But the financial demands on living expenses in NZ and OZ becomes too overwhelming and everyone struggle to even save money to return to the Cook Islands for a holiday. We all long to return home. I hope to go to Mangaia within the next two years and build a family home for family holidays and retirement as well have enough money to start a business. I believe this is most Cook Islanders dream.

  • Comment Link JeanMarie Williams Thursday, 30 July 2015 12:12 posted by JeanMarie Williams

    The Pm is correct in this but politics have to take some blame
    for example Manihiki
    What is there for our People to stay for? monetary wise?
    Our Late Father Tekake Williams started the pearl industry many years ago
    What has politics done?
    What industries has been started or created to hold our children back?
    No wonder the grass is always greener out there
    I tried to farm fish but was opposed by families and politics
    Where to from here?
    Yes development is good for us but support it so we can afford to stay in the islands
    Our solar bill is high and a tin of milk 900gm is $23.00 No wonder the grass is greener out there
    Come on People let us start to hold our People back by removing these restrictions


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