Assistant clerk of parliament Helen Maunga said in an interview with Radio New Zealand that Parliamentary Services had made provisions in its budget to bring winning candidates to Rarotonga following the June 14 elections.
These candidates include Tapaitau and the Cook Islands Party’s Tingika Elikana, who claimed the Pukapuka-Nassau seat.
The other successful candidates from the northern group – prime minister Henry Puna, who retained his seat in the Manihiki constituency, and CIP’s Toka Hagai, who also retained his seat in Rakahanga – are already in Rarotonga.
According to a Radio New Zealand report, the cost of the flight was said to be about $32,000.
In her interview, Maunga said the plane would first fly to the northern island of Pukapuka to uplift Elikana before proceeding to Penrhyn, the northernmost island in the group, for the successful independent candidate Tapaitau and his wife, as well as a medical patient.
She said there were actually two patients who needed to be transferred from Penrhyn, but only one could be brought to Rarotonga on the charter flight because no other seats were available.
Parliamentary Services had left it to medical officers on Penrhyn to prioritise which patient got on the flight, Maunga said.
Meanwhile, Tapaitau is expected to meet with the leaders of the Democratic Party and Cook Islands Party when he arrives in Rarotonga to discuss a possible coalition with either party.
With neither parties holding the majority, the balance of power rests with Tapaitau, Rose Brown, who is the other successful independent candidate, and the One Cook Islands party George Maggie.
In an interview with Radio Pacific News, Tapaitau said he was going into talks with one thing in mind – to get the best outcome for his people.
“My phone’s been hot and both parties have been ringing so negotiations will start – and we’ll see where we go from there,” said Tapaitau.
- Radio New Zealand/RK