Tuesday 21 March 2023 | Written by Matthew Littlewood | Published in Culture, Local, National
Norman George, who was speaking at a special thanksgiving service for the fundraiser at the National Auditorium on Sunday, told the audience a he had been disappointed in the Government’s response so far.
“During this appeal, we made a very unpleasant discovery. Our country is deeply divided. The general election finished seven months ago and the sulk, anger and bitterness continue,” George said.
“Our operation was cold-shouldered on many fronts. Despite my detailed briefing of PM Mark Brown, inviting government support and participation, I never even got a reply or acknowledgement.”
George said the fund, which has raised more than $30,000 for victims of Cyclone Gabrielle in New Zealand, should be met “dollar for dollar” by the Government.
“Is it not time we put the interests of our country ahead of divisive politics. Do we not have professional politicians in office who can handle disagreements? As a nation we are 58 years of age, fully mature and experienced,” he said.
“I offer this challenge to both the Government and the Opposition. You have both ignored this fundraising.”
Some of the fundraising events included a telephone radio appeal, a special market day at Terevete Market, and a breakfast at the Aroanui Hall in Arorangi.
George said Cook Islands United Party leader Teariki Heather and his two fellow MPs had already helped raise more than $13,000 towards the appeal through food sales and raffles.
Heather told Cook Islands News that helping out New Zealand was the right thing to do.
It is estimated the total damage incurred by Cyclone Gabrielle on New Zealand would be at least $13 billion.
“I know the overall amount we raised is a drop in the bucket compared to what’s needed, but it’s something. We need to share the love around, New Zealand is always supporting us when we are in need,” Heather said.
George said “money was still coming in” and, with a special dinner to be hosted at Coastal Kitchen in the weekend, he was hoping for a good end to the fundraising campaign.
“Once it is all collected, we will work with the Bank of the Cook Islands to present a cheque to the New Zealand High Commission,” he said.
“If we can get the Government to support our efforts that would be great.”
Opposition leader Tina Browne, of the Cook Islands Democratic Party, said she and her party would be “more than happy” to support the relief fund.
“I’ll be having discussions with my fellow Democratic MPs sometime this week,” she said.
Cook Islands Prime Minister Mark Brown has been contacted for comment.