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Pa Enua prepares for border reopening

Tuesday 12 April 2022 | Written by Matthew Littlewood | Published in National, Outer Islands


Pa Enua prepares for border reopening

Leaders in the Pa Enua (outer islands) could soon be cautiously welcoming back tourists.

The Cook Islands Government is still pushing for a return of commercial travel for the Southern Group of the islands on April 18, and the Northern Group of the islands on April 25. Aitutaki is already open for travel.

When Cook Islands News contacted representatives of the Pa Enua, most of them were happy about the proposed dates, but some were worried about the arrival of Covid-19.

Atiu mayor Nooroa Paratainga said its Island Council would meet on Wednesday to confirm whether they will go ahead with reopening on April 18.

“We’re confident Te Marae Ora will equip us with the plans for us to respond to Covid-19 when it arrives,” Paratainga said.

Penrhyn mayor Rangi Taia said he did not think the island would be particularly busy once the borders reopened.

“Covid-19 is a big worry, I think a lot of people are still cautious about it,” Taia said.

“So far, we don’t have any cases of it on our island, but if we allow these flights, there’s a real risk of it arriving.”

Taia said he was confident Te Marae Ora health ministry would set the right conditions for passengers on flights to the Pa Enua.

“They’ve done a good job so far,” he said.

Mitiaro mayor Makara Murare said he was also concerned about Covid-19, particularly with the number of cases in Rarotonga.

Mayor of Mitiaro Makara Murare pictured with his wife Maora. Photo: CHRISTOPHER STORY. 20091001

“If we get Covid-19 in our island, the hospital is not big enough to manage it. Our hospital has only three beds, the Government should look at upgrading the medical facilities on the Pa Enua so we can manage any likely cases,” Murare said.

Murare said the island had a very high vaccination rate, but he was worried about the vulnerability of the younger population, who were not vaccinated.

However, he said the island had several upcoming maintenance and infrastructure projects, which required workers from Rarotonga.

Mauke executive officer Royston Jones said their island was still requiring all travellers to have a permit from Te Marae Ora before they can arrive.

He said the Mauke Island Council was still waiting for further consultation from the Government before they agree to the reopening of the border.

Manihiki mayor Ngamata Napara said its Island Council had discussed with the community the proposal to reopen, and the community was broadly in favour of it.

“But we don’t want to be reopening for the sake of reopening,” Napara said.

“The safety of our people is paramount, particularly with this Covid-19 pandemic.”

Napara said the island was also looking forward to the repatriation of its residents who were in Rarotonga.

“A lot of projects have remained on hold since the borders have closed,” she said.

“We’re going to get all of these started again once the borders reopen.”

Rakahanga Island Council executive officer Toka Hagai said its council would hold a meeting, but at this stage, it was pushing for a reopening date of April 25.

 “We’re getting everything prepared for it,” Hagai said.

“Once we’ve completed the vaccination of our under-15s, then we can be satisfied that we’re safe enough.”