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Govt set to amend immigration law following High Court ruling

Tuesday 14 May 2024 | Written by Losirene Lacanivalu | Published in Economy, Local, National, Parliament

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Govt set to amend immigration law following High Court ruling
The first order of the day when Parliament meets on Wednesday afternoon will be the swearing in ceremony of the new Member of Parliament for Penrhyn, Sarakura Tapaitau. MELINA ETCHES/24041821

Parliament will meet for its second session for the year tomorrow at 1pm, with a number of Bills on the agenda for presentation, including the 2024/25 Budget.

One of the Bills to be tabled is the Cook Islands Immigration Amendment Bill (No. 2) 2024.

The Bill follows the landmark decision by the Cook Islands High Court ruling that a residency regulation giving preferential treatment to New Zealand citizens is “invalid”.

The Immigration Amendment Bill aims to ensure that the Cook Islands can manage immigration in a way that it meets its international obligations.

Earlier this year, Chief Justice Patrick Keane granted the application filed by Friends of Fiji Inc challenging the residency threshold for permanent residence set by Immigration’s 2022 regulations, that established a five-year residency requirement for New Zealand citizens seeking permanent residency in the Cook Islands, while all other nationalities faced a 10-year wait.

This framework was challenged by Friends of Fiji Inc. on grounds that it contravened both the Cook Islands Constitution and the Immigration Act 2021 itself.

According to Parliament’s explanatory notes, the Bill is a response to the High Court’s decision in the Friends of Fiji Inc v Attorney–General where the Court found regulation 8 (2) (d) of the Cook Islands Immigration Regulation 2023 to be invalid. The regulation was designed to implement a treaty obligation to give New Zealand citizens preferential consideration for residence in the Cook Islands.

Chief Justice Keane’s ruling emphasised the crucial role of Parliament in the legislative process, particularly in giving effect to treaty obligations and ensuring that such obligations are explicitly endorsed through primary legislation.

Other Bills to be presented in Parliament this week are the Cook Islands Investment Corporation Amendment Bill 2024, and the Manatua Cable Protection Bill 2024 which proposes to protect the Manatua One Polynesian Cable from damage.

The Public Health Bill 2024 which aims to protect and promote the health of all people of the Cook Islands to reduce the incidence of disease and ill health and encourage planning and community involvement to deliver better health outcomes will also be presented.

A bill to amend the Tobacco Products Control Act 2007 is also to be presented. This Bill includes the prohibition of the sale of e-cigarettes or imitation tobacco and raising the legal age of purchasing tobacco from 18 to 21.

In the lead up to the tabling of the much-anticipated Budget (2024-2025 Appropriation Budget), Prime Minister Mark Brown, who is also the Finance Minister, will give an update on the Government’s economic forecast, snapshot of government’s budget financials and government’s initiatives, at the Annual Budget Breakfast at The Islander Hotel on Wednesday tomorrow.

Meanwhile the first order of the day when Parliament meets on Wednesday afternoon will be the swearing in ceremony of the new Member of Parliament for Penrhyn, Sarakura Tapaitau.

The independent MP was declared the successful candidate duly elected in the Penrhyn by-election in March.

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