About 1 million of New Zealand’s 3.5 million eligible voters cast their ballot ahead of the 14 October election day. Photograph: Ben McKay/AAP
By the time this editorial goes to print, we will know the outcome of the New Zealand General Election, and that outcome will have been determined by hundreds, if not thousands of voters, who also live and reside in the Cook Islands and overseas, writes Thomas Tarurongo Wynne.
voted in two New Zealand elections, although I did not reside there, so could
still affect and contribute to the democratic outcome of Aotearoa as a citizen
of Aotearoa – meeting the criteria of being 18 years or older, having lived in
New Zealand for more than 12 months continuously at some time in my life, and
being a New Zealand citizen who has been in New Zealand within the last six
criteria after this 2023 election will change to the previous settings of three
years for New Zealand citizens and 12 months for New Zealand permanent
1965, when the Cook Islands’ constitution and electoral laws were drafted,
external voting was considered, but it was not considered an issue for those
Cook Islanders who lived abroad, mainly in New Zealand, as the Cook Islands
position remains that those who have gone away should not interfere in what
goes on at home. This position remains strongly held in the Cook Islands to
this day, and it clearly states that you have no say in the affairs of the Cook
Islands if you do not live here, do not qualify to vote or be a part of the
democratic process, and have not resided here for a minimum of three
this was not always the case and whether by political persuasion or pragmatism,
overseas voting has left an indelible imprint on the politics of the Cook
Islands, be it fly in voters in the 1970s, an elected Member of Parliament in
the 1990s and overseas voting up until 1998.
question is, simply this – Is it time to review that position and if so, what
could that look like, and if not, why not.
be it the legislated requirement of a residency stamp to ensure right of entry,
the right to own land, the right to reside, should that not also, with a set of
agreed requirements, that do not adversely discriminate, and give all qualified
Cook Islanders the opportunity to also vote?
as we enjoy the duality of citizenship and duality of rights of access to two
countries, health system, education, and travel, yet only one, allows us the
full rights of citizens and that is at its core to vote and be a part of the
back, the Cook Islands electoral system had provision for an external seat from
1981 until 2003, and an overseas member was elected at General Elections in
1983, 1989, 1994 and 1999.
1998, the Commission of Political Review recommended several changes to the
Cook Islands constitution, including reducing the number of parliamentary seats
to 17 – that did not include an overseas seat.
the General Elections in 1999, three of the four political parties fielded
candidates for the overseas seat, although an inquiry at the time suggested
that the overseas seat cost the Cook Islands public too much with many then wanting
2003, some 2000 voters signed a petition calling not only for abolition of the
overseas seat but also for a reduction in the parliamentary term from five
years to three, a reduction in the number of MPs and funding for ministerial
the legislature voted in 2003 on whether to abolish the overseas seat, even its
incumbent, Dr Joe Williams, agreed to its removal.
three years on, I raise the question again, for the more than 130,000 off
shore, be it our sons and daughters for rugby, league or sports teams, coaching
staff, for the Rugby League Aitu taking the field this weekend, millions for
halls, churches, and monuments, many will never see or sit under, or the
countless tere parties that come through for fundraisers back home, the
connection to home runs deep, but not deep enough for many to then ask for the
opportunity to vote, or to just broaden the criteria, because the answer from
home is a definite no. In that respect you are not a Cook Islander.