At the Mangaia Hostel in Tupapa yesterday, Australian Deputy Prime Minister Warren Truss handed over the keys of a new mini-van, which will be used to transport school children and more particularly, people on the island with disabilities.
The handover was symbolic as the vehicle is not actually in the Cook Islands yet, but is in Auckland, New Zealand, being converted for its special passengers.
Truss was treated to a traditional welcome when he arrived at the hostel yesterday morning. Also at the ceremony were the Australian High Commissioner to New Zealand Michael Potts, Cook Islands Deputy Prime Minister Teariki Heather, Health Minister Nandie Glassie, Minister of Internal Affairs Albert Nicholas and members of the island council.
Truss, one of scores of international VIPs on the island for yesterday’s Constitution Day celebrations, told a large group of Mangaians staying at the hostel he hoped that when any of them drove the mini-van, they would remember that the vehicle was Australia’s way of saying congratulations to the Cook Islands for achieving 50 years of self-governance.
Truss said the country’s Disability Action Plan had made the Cook Islands a leader in the Pacific, as had its efforts to ensure that all people in this country had the same opportunities.
The Australian deputy prime minister was on a tight schedule yesterday, arriving late for the mini-van handover. He then joined the huge crowd of diplomats and other VIPs attending a thanksgiving prayer service at the National Auditorium.