Prime Minister Mark Brown and New Zealand Foreign Affairs Minister Nanaia Mahuta during the signing of the statement of partnership on Thursday, October 13, 2022. Picture: CALEB FOTHERINGHAM/22101314
We are gearing up to hit the ground running though – and I am particularly looking forward to holding the first sitting of Parliament as soon as we can, writes Prime Minister Mark Brown.
Kia orana tatou
katoatoa and Happy New Year to us all.
I hope everyone
enjoyed a very merry Christmas and that you’re continuing to enjoy a
well-earned holiday break.
For those of you
who have had to work through – whether it be in hospitality or at the hospital,
in our police service, our corrections service or anyone else keeping our
essential services running – please know that your efforts are appreciated.
Last year at this
time, I said that 2022 would be a big year for us.
And it was – as we
opened our borders and as we dealt with our first Covid cases, pushed past the
worst of the pandemic, and took some major steps towards truly rebuilding our
economy after the stresses and setbacks of 2020 and 2021.
Well, 2023 is
going to be another very big year for us as well – even bigger and busier than
We are gearing up
to hit the ground running though – and I am particularly looking forward to
holding the first sitting of Parliament as soon as we can.
There are several bills that need to be
tabled and passed, and I’m sure our new MPs especially are eager to take their
oath of office and get on with representing their people and communities to the
best of their abilities.
Looking further ahead, the Cook Islands
has a busy calendar year of high-level meetings, conferences and other events
that are currently being planned for in 2023 – most notably the Pacific Islands
Forum Leaders Meeting, which we last hosted in 2012.
This meeting will be an excellent
opportunity to showcase our Cook Islands hospitality as we welcome our friends
from around the wider Pacific region, as well as other global partners who wish
to engage with the Pacific on our terms.
Also on the calendar for 2023 of course
are our big local celebrations – including our 200-year commemoration of the
arrival of Christianity to Rarotonga, Atiu, Mauke and Mitiaro in July.
Then, in August of this coming year, Te
Maeva Nui marks our 58th anniversary as a sovereign nation.
With the direct flights from Sydney and
Hawaii also starting by May next year we can expect a lot more locals
especially wanting to be here for the 200 years and the Maeva Nui celebrations.
The re-establishment of direct flights
between us and Honolulu in May, followed by Sydney in June, represent further
important steps on our road to economic recovery, as we reconnect with crucial
tourist markets in Australia and the United States.
While visitors from New Zealand are
easily our biggest source of tourism income, it is essential that we continue
to rebuild our connections with the Australian and Northern Hemisphere markets
and not keep all our eggs in one basket.
With that idea of diversification in
mind, our developing seabed minerals sector is also set to have an active year
in 2023, as our five-year programme of exploration and research into the
environment of our deep-ocean seabed and the potentially valuable polymetallic
nodules lying on our seafloor continues.
A new research vessel – the Anuanua Moana
– is arriving soon, and over the next 12 months I expect to see opportunities
opening up for Cook Islanders who are interested and eager to learn more about
our ocean depths and work in a marine science or shipboard setting.
All these things I’ve mentioned here are
really just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to what 2023 has in store – it
will indeed be a very big year for the Cook Islands, and I look forward to the
new developments and exciting times that lie ahead for all of us.