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Saturday 31 December 2022 | Written by Supplied | Published in Local, National, Politics


Bigger and busier 2023: PM
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 2022 was.

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.

Kia orana e kia manuia and Happy New Year.