Prime minister Henry Puna has made a promise that the Cook Islands will never give up New Zealand citizenship, as the current agreement is “sacred”.
He made the promise while on a state visit to New Zealand with a ministerial delegation last week.
Puna and finance minister Mark Brown also reaffirmed to New Zealand deputy prime minister Winston Peters at the Joint Ministerial Forum in Waitangi the paramount importance that the Cook Islands places on New Zealand citizenship.
However, Brown said that did not mean that Cook Islands could not engage in discussions about membership of other international organisations.
“We discussed organisations such as the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the International Renewable Energy Organisation, among others,” Brown said.
“The commitment that we’ve got is that we will work collaboratively with New Zealand to find ways of achieving the benefits that these organisations provide to countries in the region.”
Brown said the government was in the process of negotiating the next three years of New Zealand’s triennial project assistance programme.
“They’ve made a commitment to maintain the same level of development assistance of the previous three years, which was about $45 million over a three-year period,” Brown said.
“And this is targeted to core sector support programmes for education, health and tourism.”
Puna added that New Zealand’s “Pacific Reset” programme would not require the Cook Islands to comply more closely with New Zealand government policies.
“By and large we already share the same values, and that really is the basis of our relationship,” he said.
Brown said Peters had reaffirmed that the two countries’ relationship would be based on a partnership and not a donor-recipient arrangement
“This is something that the CI government has been talking about with New Zealand, and other development partners for a number of years.
“For us it was encouraging that New Zealand is coming to the party in terms of the type of relationship that we’ve been asking for.”