LETTER: ‘PM Brown giving us false hope’

Wednesday 31 March 2021 | Written by Supplied | Published in Letters to the Editor, Opinion

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"I believe Mark Brown is misleading our anxious and desperate business sector, all the people in our country who are hurting financially and giving us false hope."

Dear Editor,

In the last few days the Ministry of Foreign Affairs & Immigration and the Office of the Prime Minister issued a joint statement claiming that “Cook Islands Prime Minister Mark Brown and New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern have confirmed May for the Cook Islands to start receiving visitors from New Zealand and rollout of Cook Islands vaccination against Covid.”

Now PM Mark Brown has stated May 1 as the day the two-way travel bubble will open with New Zealand. I believe Mark Brown is misleading our anxious and desperate business sector, all the people in our country who are hurting financially and giving us false hope.

There was never an agreement between Brown and Ardern to fully open to all NZ visitors and for the Covid vaccine to begin rolling out in May. That press release was, in my view misleading and designed to look like these two major, much needed developments, were definitely going to happen.

Not once has PM Ardern said that the travel bubble between our two countries would commence in May – what she has said on NZ television is that is “there’s still a lot of work to be done before the Cook Islands is ready for a two-way travel bubble with New Zealand.” She has said the NZ government is working hard to make the travel bubble happen in May, but as for the past delays, she could not explain the reason for these as she does not work for the Cook Islands Ministry of Health.

As for news of the vaccine rolling out in May – confirmation of that was sought from the NZ Ministry of Health because it is something that so many of us want to happen and happen as quickly as possible before the two-way travel starts,

NZ Health Senior Media Adviser Luke Chivers confirmed the following: “We are working towards a May commencement for two-way quarantine-free travel, and progressing the necessary remaining work to ensure it can be done safely, but a specific timeframe for Covid-19 vaccination has not been agreed. We are committed to ensuring Covid-19 vaccination in the Cook Islands can start as soon as possible, and our work on resolving outstanding issues includes negotiations with pharmaceutical companies and logistical planning.”

So for PM Brown to issue a statement about an agreement with Ardern is really irresponsible. It gets our hopes up. And when it doesn’t happen, you can be sure that PM Brown will turn around and say, “we were ready, but PM Ardern would not support two-way travel”.

What PM Ardern has talked about the Cook Islands needing to have in place before we can even hope to expect the return of Kiwi visitor is: a fully operational, efficient and heavily used contact tracing system and ability to conduct surge (mass) testing. There are many other requirements that also need to be completed as reported by Titikaveka Puna leader Alistair Macquarie – an advocate for vaccine first before travel bubble.

If the travel bubble unfortunately does not happen on May 1 as we so desperately need, it will not be the fault of NZ authorities. We can only look to ourselves for not being ready in terms of response, preparedness and capacity. And at the end of the day, the decision will rest with PM Ardern. Not PM Mark Brown.

 Tupou Faireka

Co-President

Democratic Party