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Parliament appoints ‘expert’ sub-committee to review Land Bills

Friday 23 February 2024 | Written by Losirene Lacanivalu | Published in National, Parliament


Parliament appoints ‘expert’ sub-committee to review Land Bills
Solicitor-General Lauaki J. Annandale, left, with Prime Minister Mark Brown at his appointment ceremony last year. OPM/24022231

A sub-committee of lawyers with expertise in Cook Islands land matters has been formed for the first time to review key Land Bills for lawmakers.

Cook Islands Parliament confirmed the appointment of Solicitor-General Lauaki J. Annandale as the chairperson of the sub-committee. Committee members include outgoing Ministry of Justice Secretary Tamatoa Jonassen, lawyers Benjamin Marshall, Tim Arnold, Brian Mason, Tony Manarangi, and Lynnsay Francis.

Clerk of Parliament Tangata Vainerere said this is the first time such a sub-committee has been formed, following a decision made in the last Parliament sitting of 2023.

“We wanted people who have expertise in land matters to provide support in the two Bills,” Vainerere said.

The two Bills are the Cook Islands Amendment Bill 2023 and the Land Facilitation of Dealings Amendment Bill 2023.

Vainerere explained that the sub-committee is independent, operating under Standing Order 126(1).

He added that the lawyers were all experts in land matters and had been contacted and approved for their roles.

The sub-committee will be responsible to the Bills, Petitions and Papers Committee and will remain active until Parliament has cleared the Bills. They are to report to the committee by the end of March or at a date agreed upon.  

This Bills, Petitions and Papers Committee is chaired by Manihiki MP Akaiti Puna and supported by deputy chair Tina Browne, the Leader of the Opposition. Other members include Stephen Matapo, Tukaka Ama, and Teokotai Herman from the Cook Islands Party-led coalition government, alongside Democratic Party MP Tetangi Matapo and Cook Islands United Party MP Robert Heather.

The Cook Islands Amendment Bill 2023 and the Land Facilitation of Dealings Amendment Bill 2023 and their recommendation reports were submitted by chairperson Puna in the final sitting of 2023 in December.

Prime Minister Mark Brown then reminded members and the public that these were not government bills.

“I am well aware that from the public consultations that took place around Rarotonga, there were a number of concerns raised by members of the public about the consequences of this particular bill,” Brown said in December.

Brown suggested prioritising recommendations, including the appointment of a sub-committee, before further consultations.

“I welcome the input of our Crown Law office, Ministry of Justice and other government entities to very seriously review this particular Bill. And as proposed in recommendations, ensure that there are no unintended consequences.”

Opposition leader and committee deputy chair Browne also supported the recommendation for a sub-committee of experts.