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An opportunity to diversify and enrich our lives

Monday 30 May 2022 | Written by Ruta Tangiiau Mave | Published in Opinion

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An opportunity to diversify and enrich our lives
Ruta Tangiiau Mave. Photo: CI NEWS

Citizenship is a relationship between an individual and a nation to which the individual owes allegiance and in turn is entitled to its protection. A nation grants certain rights and privileges to its citizens, in return citizens are expected to obey their country’s laws, writes Ruta Mave.

As a tour guide in Europe despite visiting many great countries I still called New Zealand home. Moving to Rarotonga something changed for me, I found an affinity to the land, to the culture and people and I wanted to share these with my children. A two-year trial quickly became, ‘I’m not leaving I love it here’.

I immersed myself into schools, sports, PTA’s (Parents Teachers Association) and fundraising committees. Volunteering for sports events and executive boards and helping elderly family members. Acknowledging my right to stay and live here was as simple as a wait in line to present my genealogy and get a stamp.

Last week Immigration processed 312 expressions of interest for Cook Islands Permanent Residency (PR) to fill an allocated 140 spaces available in the 500 quota of application on own right.  I imagine at some point upon their arrival they had the same epiphany as I and decided they wanted to remain here rather than go ‘home’ to their own country.

Suffice to say, inviting immigrants to become citizens in our country is a wonderful opportunity to diversify and enrich theirs and our lives’. So how does one determine who deserves to live here? What sort of person are we looking for to be part of who we are as Cook Islanders? None of those applying appear to be trying to escape a dangerous country, or are part of a dial a bride type of thing to get one step closer to a New Zealand passport and greater freedom to travel. Although there are definitely marriages of convenience here, between a person of blood right and another of financial might.

Citizenship is a relationship between an individual and a nation to which the individual owes allegiance and in turn is entitled to its protection. A nation grants certain rights and privileges to its citizens, in return citizens are expected to obey their country’s laws. Citizenship is important for developing a strong moral code in individuals, but it’s also important for creating a safe supportive society while protecting democracy. Becoming a citizen in a country not of your birth means you are treated the same as one whom was born there or accepted as a citizen there.

There are two elements to apply – one of entitlement whereby the person believes themselves inherently deserving of or have been given a right to apply due to the time they have spent here and or the people they have been attached to say via marriage. The second element is eligibility, this is via satisfaction of the appropriate conditions or requirements.

Some of the rules set by Cook Islands Immigration are continuous residency, five years for a New Zealand passport and 10 years for all other passport holders. This certainly has raised the ire of the Friends of Fiji group who feel it is discriminatory. Applicants must have completed a Kia Orana course, and show 312 hours of community service. 

If you are married for five years or more to a citizen you can apply separately. There is no limit of spouses that are allowed to stay and 120 applications were received. I’m not sure what constitutes a spouse here as I know some who don’t live together but he gets to stay and she gets her rent paid even if the local lives overseas. Minister of Immigration Mark Brown said “there was no limit applied to those PR given to spouses of Cook Islanders … but there are still qualified criteria of the PR”. Presumably one would think if you meet the time continuum, courtesy course and community service code it’s a done deal, but it seems it’s not and on Thursday night as the invitations arrived in email inboxes there were whoops of joy from some and shock and disbelief from others especially the spouses. I know spouses who have lived here longer than I, given more and ticked all the boxes who were declined – where is the logic on limiting applications where none exist? What message are we putting out there for our wedded folk?

Kia Orana Values course of basic courtesy to others is a ticket to a model citizen?  I guess you have to start somewhere. Doing 312 hours over five years constitutes someone with good moral fiber?  That’s 1.2 hours per week, I certainly know applicants who regularly do six hours per week which is 312 hours per year every year. They should accrue more points because they aren’t trying to qualify, they genuinely care for people.

New citizens who obey our laws will be treated like one of us. Therefore, convicted felons could apply along with those wanted for questioning by New Zealand police or awaiting trial for theft and fraud because as a Christian nation, we forgive one for their past actions – then make them Members of Parliament. Let’s hope decent, deserving citizens are invited in.