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Cook Islands to sign strategic partnership deal with Australia

Monday 17 October 2022 | Written by CI News Staff | Published in National, Politics


Cook Islands to sign strategic  partnership deal with Australia

Cook Islands is hoping to secure funding from Australia to support its climate and disaster resilience efforts when Australian Foreign Minister visits the country this week.

Australian Foreign Minister, Senator Penny Wong will arrive in Rarotonga tonight on her first official visit to the Cook Islands.

In her one-day visit, Wong will meet Prime Minister Mark Brown for a formal bilateral meeting at the Cabinet Room tomorrow.

The two leaders are expected to sign a partnership agreement following the meeting.

Wong is scheduled to have a roundtable lunch with leaders where discussions on economic recovery, climate change and oceans, health and education are expected to take place.

She will also visit the Maritime Surveillance Centre to inspect the ongoing refurbishment work.

Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Immigration in a statement said this week’s visit follows a June visit by Prime Minister Brown to Australia to receive Te Kukupa II Pacific Guardian Class vessel and meet with then newly elected Prime Minister Anthony Albanese.

During the visit, Brown also met with Minister Wong as well as Australia’s Minister for Pacific and International Development Pat Conroy, and Minister for Climate Change Chris Bowen.

In a statement yesterday Prime Minister Brown said: “I am delighted to be able to welcome Senator Wong to Rarotonga this week to advance discussions held in Australia in June and in the margins of the Pacific Islands Forum held in Suva in July.”

“Senator Wong’s visit is the first Ministerial visit by the Australian Government since the opening of Australia’s High Commission in Rarotonga in December 2019. 

“I will be looking to secure support for increased transport and communications links, access to the Australian Infrastructure Financing Facility for the Pacific to avail critical funding to support our climate and disaster resilience efforts, greater opportunities for partnerships in sport, education and media, extension of our sustainable oceans and livelihoods partnerships, and fostering closer institutional linkages with Australia at bilateral and regional levels.”

Minister Wong’s visit follows earlier officials level talks held over the last year, most recently earlier this month, to reach consensus on the content of a strategic partnership agreement expected to be signed during this week’s visit, the statement said.

In addition to bilateral talks, Minister Wong will engage with representatives of business, civil society and community leaders during her one-day visit.   

She will depart Rarotonga for Niue on Wednesday morning.

Cook Islands hosted New Zealand Foreign Minister Nanaia Mahuta last week. Mahuta announced additional funding of $3.8 million for the Polynesian Health Corridors programme for pandemic preparedness and response over the next year, as well as access to Covid-19 oral antivirals from New Zealand’s domestic supply for the Cook Islands, Niue and Tokelau. During her visit to Manihiki on Friday, Mahuta confirmed $7.5 million will be allocated to upgrade solar farms in the Northern Group. The investment is part of New Zealand’s 2022-2025 international climate commitment.