More Top Stories

National

Final counting underway

10 August 2022

Local

The ride of their lives

8 August 2022

Sports
Culture
Opinion
Commonwealth Games
Culture
Environment
Local
Netball
Rugby Union
Editorials
Court
Local
Business
Soccer
Crime
Local

'Acting for change’

19 July 2022

Rugby Union

Cook Islands to expand co-operation with French Polynesia

Tuesday 17 May 2022 | Written by Supplied | Published in Editorials, Opinion

Share

Cook Islands to expand co-operation with French Polynesia
French Polynesia. Photo: Tahiti Tourism

There are many different ways and many different areas in which the Cook Islands and French Polynesia can support each other in the post Covid-19 economic recovery, and last week’s visit was about capturing the opportunities that are now available to us, writes Prime Minister Mark Brown.

Kia Orana,

On Sunday evening I returned back to Rarotonga from a three-day trip to Tahiti where I held a number of meetings to discuss ways in which we aim to re-establish our ties and develop bilateral cooperation with our closest neighbours, French Polynesia.

The meeting with the French Polynesia, President Edouard Fritch, was the first face to face meeting with a fellow Pacific leader since meeting PM (Jacinda) Ardern in early 2021. We could all see the benefit of person to person discussions with the very positive outcomes that we reached – that would otherwise not be reached if it was via Zoom. It was also an opportunity to discuss matters relating to the Polynesian Leaders Group (PLG) with myself as the current chair and President Fritch as the incoming chair.

I was very pleased with the discussions we held with President Edouard Fritch and several members of his Council of Ministers, as well as senior executives from Air Tahiti Nui and the French Polynesian telecommunications agency OPT.

There are many different ways and many different areas in which the Cook Islands and French Polynesia can support each other in the post Covid-19 economic recovery, and this visit was about capturing the opportunities that are now available to us.

High on our list was the re-establishment and possible expansion of air links between our two countries, which in turn will not only help support the tourism industry, but also has the potential to improve our labour market access, create trade opportunities and strengthen cultural ties, among various other flow-on effects.

Prime Minister Mark Brown held a meeting with the French Polynesia, President Edouard Fritch last week. Photo: MFAI/22051620

Joining me in our government delegation were officials from both our Ministry of Foreign Affairs & Immigration, and from Avaroa Cable Ltd, who are looking to collaborate more closely with their counterpart OPT in French Polynesia as members of the Manatua Cable consortium. It is the Manatua Cable that links us to French Polynesia, Samoa and Niue and connects us to the rest of the world.

Also on our flight was Air Rarotonga managing director Ewan Smith and several other prominent Cook Islands businesspeople, all of whom are very keen to develop further trade and tourism opportunities with their counterparts in French Polynesia.

The work done by Air Rarotonga in exploring air link opportunities to North America via Papeete is to be commended. Currently, with no immediate access to the North American markets, we have had to explore other options and the potential to link into Tahiti as a hub to and from North America and Europe is an exciting development. 

Air Rarotonga are leading the way in finding out how we can make this work, with government playing a supporting and enabling role, but all parties involved recognise the importance of establishing alternative flight connections to the northern hemisphere and their lucrative tourist markets, especially in light of the delayed resumption of Air New Zealand’s direct Los Angeles (and Sydney) flights.

Currently, discussions are ongoing between Air Rarotonga and the French Polynesian domestic carrier Air Tahiti and also the international carrier Air Tahiti Nui (ATN), which has interline agreements with more than 40 other transporters, and through its partners offers routes to more than 60 cities around the world, including many along the USA’s western coast.

Most recently, ATN is about to launch another US West Coast connection between Papeete and Seattle, where the Cook Islands already has a strong destination profile.

This connection to yet another US city by ATN will potentially represent some very welcome tourist trade for our operators here in the Cook Islands.

Another benefit of more regular air links between the Cook Islands and French Polynesia is the potential access it will grant us to the labour market there. With a high developed tourism sector and skilled staff in hospitality there is opportunity to explore labour sources from Tahiti.

Recruiting workers from this market will also come with less complexities for our prospective employers, as direct flights mean no need for transit visas through New Zealand, as is the case for workers coming from the Philippines, Indonesia, or Fiji.

All-in-all a whirlwind three days full of meetings and discussions that should plant more seeds of our recovery that we can expect to harvest over the coming year.

Kia Manuia.