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LETTER TO EDITOR: MFEM’s ‘sheer arrogance’

Monday 20 February 2023 | Written by Supplied | Published in Letters to the Editor, Opinion


LETTER TO EDITOR: MFEM’s ‘sheer arrogance’

Dear Editor, The sheer arrogance that MFEM (Ministry of Finance and Economic Management) is displaying with regard to the Air New Zealand tax refund debacle, and subsequent legal fees Cook Islands as a country has incurred trying to fight this issue, is quite ridiculous and mind boggling (Cook Islands News, 13 February, 2023).

Mr (Garth) Henderson and Mr (Alan) Richardson should perhaps be reminded that a) they are public servants i.e. paid by us the taxpayer, and therefore answerable to us, the public; and b) that this is public money they are trying to say they cannot divulge details about. They should also be reminded that ultimately they work for us, the public. (Yeah right … that argument is going to work in the face of such arrogance!). 

However the real issue would appear to be that they (MFEM) are trying to hide behind, and not admit to, an incredible stuff up, brought about by someone in the MFEM office, (could it be the same person who is now  conveniently on extended (paid?) sabbatical  leave in Europe?) which has now ultimately led to this huge legal bill being  payable by us, the Taxpayer! And the net result is that the country has to foot the legal costs, when they (MFEM) should have followed the legal advice they were given in the first place, and would thus have totally avoided all this expensive nonsense. Just another example of growing sheer arrogance in the bureaucracy!  

For MFEM now to try and hide behind legal/commercially sensitive arguments is plainly absurd. The two persons mentioned above are paid huge salaries to run this country’s finances competently, perhaps we should rethink whether they are worth it.   

Come out clean 

(Name and address supplied)

The legal importation of medicinal cannabis products

I read your Saturday’s article headlined: “What’s up at our borders? Cannabis confusion at the arrivals gate”.

I would like to take this time to clear up that confusion and also praise the Customs officer for giving the correct information to a passenger’s question about if cannabis medications are allowed into the Cook Islands.

The Customs officer’s learned answer was it is allowed into the Cook Islands provided they have a prescription. And this Customs officer who gave this right answer to the passenger has the law to back him up.

You see Mr. Editor, the law gives us total clarity when it comes to the importation of medicinal cannabis products by passengers arriving on our shores.

Under the Ministry of Health Act 2013, (Pharmacy and Therapeutic Products) Regulations. 

Part 5 Controls on dealings with therapeutic products.

23 Importation and supply of therapeutic products.

(7) Nothing in this regulation prevents the importation by any person of a medicine if that importation is for personal therapeutic use which is evidenced by a letter or certificate of that person’s medical practitioner registered outside the Cook Islands or is for the purpose of a clinical trial authorised by the Ministry.

On the other hand the statement in your Saturday paper by Alan Richardson, acting controller, comptroller and director of Ministry of Finance and Economic Management, that medicinal cannabis is a prohibited import is wrong because the Ministry of Health Act as I’ve spelled out above allows for its legal importation as long as all  the necessary criteria is met.

Our Health Act coincides with New Zealand, if you are travelling, you may bring medicinal cannabis products into NZ only if, the product has been prescribed to you by a doctor, you have a copy of the prescription or a letter from your doctor stating that you are being treated with the products and you declare the products on your passenger arrival card.

It doesn’t surprise me that Customs is giving out wrong information. The Cook Islands Government has paid $5.4 million to Air New Zealand following a High Court case in Rarotonga, the court ruled in the airline’s favour and said Air New Zealand taxes should be paid in NZ instead of the Cook Islands. And hundreds of thousands of dollars must be paid by taxpayers of this nation to cover legal costs in this case involving the airline and Revenue Management Division.

The head of Customs needs to get up to speed on the legal importation of medicinal cannabis products because the definition of the word nothing in regulation 23, (7) means not a thing prevents its importation as long as patients follow the rules.


Steve Boggs