“The prime minister has instilled in the minds of the public that the Democratic Party do not want Te Maeva Nui celebrations to happen and that the Democratic Party do not want the Pa Enua to travel to Rarotonga to celebrate in our celebrations,” a Democratic Party spokesperson said via Facebook.
“This is a prime minister who is very good at twisting the minds of people and is very desperate to win the hearts of the people, knowing his time is nearly over.”
The Facebook post went on to outline the cost breakdown of Te Maeva Nui, highlighting the $2.4 million transport cost for bringing in Cook Islanders from the Pa Enua.
“The largest cost was for transport $2,378,999 for costs of shipping from the Northern Group and air transport for the Southern Group,” the post read.
“Other significant costs were subsidy payments to each island team of $15,000, funding for personnel and operations on Rarotonga for the actual event $550,000 and an allocation for next year’s subsidy payment of $10,000 to each island team.”
Referring to two meetings which took place on June 20 and June 22, held so that the caretaker government might obtain opposition support for continued government expenditure, the post also raised the issue of not capping team numbers or the number of those travelling from the northern islands.
“Of specific concern was that travel from the north was uncapped, allowing the inclusion of general passengers that would not be directly involved in the celebrations,” said the post.
“A narrower focus on those intending to strictly participate in TMN could have lowered passenger numbers, reducing the need for one ship only to service the entire north instead of two, and lowering shipping charter costs. Stricter control on cargo allowances could also reduce costs.”
The Demo spokesperson also went on to say that the party “believed that an estimated cost saving of about $1m could have been achieved under this as an alternative plan”.
Online reaction to the Democratic Party statement was mixed, with some agreeing that the party was right to be questioning these costs and suggesting the money could have been better used on permanent infrastructure projects, while others declared it “money well spent”.
“Government should review these extraordinary expenses,” said one commenter. “It makes no sense to keep funding these events the way it is.”
“I am very proud of our government for bringing my Northern Group families to the Maevanui on a decent boat,” said another. “About time they are treated as humans.”
One commenter also questioned the timing of the Democratic Party statement and its disclosures, describing it as akin to “shutting the barn door when all the horses have already bolted”.
“This should’ve been released in a more timely way in the public interest.”
- Release/Shaun Bamber