An estimated 423 outer islanders arrived on the 60-metre-long Tuvaluan vessel Nivaga III, which docked just after lunchtime, shunted into place by the Ports Authority tugboat Toa.
Hired by the Cook Islands government to ferry in passengers from the northern islands for this year’s Te Maeva Nui celebrations, Nivaga III was met by Prime Minister Henry Puna, Queen’s Representative Tom Marsters, Penrhyn MP Robert Tapaitau, Pukapuka-Nassau MP Tingika Elikana, Rakahanga MP Toka Hagai and Secretary of Culture Anthony Turua, as well as other government officials and representatives.
The arriving passengers also included a medical patient who was stretchered off the ship and taken immediately to Rarotonga Hospital by a waiting ambulance.
Once disembarked, the new arrivals gathered on the wharf for an official welcome conducted by Pastor Ngarima George, but it wasn’t long before friends and family members were rushing to greet each other before the visitors were loaded onto a series of buses for transportation to their respective hostels.
And just two hours later, similar scenes of welcome and reunion were repeated with the arrival of the MV Tahiti Nui, which docked carrying several hundred more passengers from the island of Manihiki.