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Mangaia triples in size: Island gears up to feed 1000 visitors for Bicentennial Celebration

Saturday 8 June 2024 | Written by Rashneel Kumar | Published in Church Talk, Features, Local, National, Outer Islands, Weekend

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Mangaia triples in size: Island gears up to feed 1000 visitors for Bicentennial Celebration
Mangaia children help adults clean kumara for the Bicentennial Celebration which starts this afternoon with the official opening. Mangaia Bicentennial Celebration 24060720

A celebratory atmosphere fills Mangaia as hundreds arrive for the long-awaited Bicentennial Celebration kicking off today with the official opening ceremony.

Air Rarotonga managing director Ewan Smith said they have a total of 64 Bandeirante flights to Mangaia starting Monday and running through Tuesday next week. Then, after a few days, they will begin the return flights.

The airline has transported around 700 people and five tonnes of freight this week alone, Smith said.

The island is buzzing with people, says Anthony Whyte, the executive officer of Mangaia.

They include visitors and families from Rarotonga, New Zealand, and Australia who are there to celebrate the 200th anniversary of Christianity’s arrival on the island of Mangaia.

The celebration will go for a week, culminating with the closing ceremony on June 15.


Rehearsals for the Mangaia Bicentennial Celebrations starting today. Mangaia Bicentennial Celebrations/24060726

“We are an island of about 500 people and we know there are about an extra 1000 people here for the Bicentennial Celebration, we have tripled in size,” Whyte told Cook Islands News.

“There are about 300-400 who are officially here for the Bicentennial and others are mostly families who are having their own celebrations and reunions around this momentous occasion.

“There are activities planned throughout the week and everyone is excited and looking forward to it.”

Whyte said the island has imported a lot of goods in the past couple of weeks to ensure they have enough supplies to feed everyone on the island.


Fresh sashimi. Mangaia Bicentennial Celebrations/24060728

“We have had a lot of freight runs in between … we had the boat (Tapi Taio Shipping) and barge coming in almost every week for the past two months,” he said.

“We have got a whole cold-room, a 24-foot container chock-full of chicken to pork to cows, just meat, and another container full of dry goods.”

The Island Government has also constructed a smaller dome (modelled after the one at Tupapa) for the main events.Paragraph

Whyte said it cost them about $18,000 and they bought it from China last year.


T’s coffee located 50 metres from the King’s palace has been a busy place this week. Mangaia Bicentennial Celebrations/24060731

Assembly of the dome was completed this week, and decoration work began yesterday alongside testing of the sound systems and video. The event will be streamed live on Facebook.

Whyte said the event has also proven good for business.

“All the bikes and cars are rented out and the accommodations are all full. We are also using our school bus to take people from one village to another, it’s running from 6am to 6pm.


A hall ready to accommodate visiting guests. Mangaia Bicentennial Celebrations/24060723

“The coffee shop has been busy and we are setting up a market where the exhibition will be held as well as the fruit stalls and the island market are all busy.

“We haven’t seen anything like this before. We have hosted events like the Manea Games and the Tri Series and they were big experiences for us but this one has surely taken the cake. It is way above what we all expected.”

Mangaia budget accommodation Babes Place which has four motel units and a large two-bedroom family house with lounge and dining area is all rented out.

The accommodation also runs a shop that has been running out of essentials and had to airfreight some basic goods this week.

“There are other private accommodations on the island and they’re all fully booked. We have never seen anything like this before.”


Guests from overseas enjoy breakfast on Mangaia. Mangaia Bicentennial Celebrations/24060724

In a statement, the organising committee said a flock of expectant and emotional faces emerge from planes including returning Mangaians who left as a child now return with their grandchildren.

“Many who have been away for all their lives and some who have yet to step on island,” the committee said.

“The event is scheduled to open on 8th June with the closing ceremony marked down for the 15th. However, groups will still be arriving even after the closing date – as they were not able to secure flights before and during the celebration.”

The committee said its all-hands-on deck for the people of Mangaia, as last-minute details are put into place to ensure the programme runs smoothly starting today.

“To date, a total of 22 accommodation venues were set aside for visiting groups. Tallying our number of visitors to the island housing approximately close to 700 people. These are Puna halls, Church halls and Mangaia school. This number does not include those staying with families and in private accommodations.”

Numangatini Ariki Tereapii Tangitamaiti said: “The island has been expecting and anticipating this huge influx of people on the island. We are ready and prepared.”

“There will be a day or two of adjusting some elements of our plan and programme but I believe in my people. And they will come together because their heart is in the right place and we will have a grand opening because of him.

“We honour Jesus with our hearts and that is why we are doing our best.”


A worker tests the sound system at the main arena where the opening ceremony and other events will be held. Mangaia Bicentennial Celebrations/24060725

Today’s opening programme was scheduled to start at 4am with the Drum of Peace. This was to circulate the island starting from Mangaia Harbour through Tavaenga, Hospital, School, Paata, Keia, Kaumata, Tamarua, Ivirua and back to Oneroa, followed by a flag raising ceremony at all the CICC grounds, including the main Bicentennial Arena.

The opening ceremony is planned to run from 1pm to 6pm. It will include introductions of all groups, the theme song, launch of the Bicentennial book, entertainment and an island kaikai. The opening ceremony will end with a firework display at 7pm.