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Murray McCully visit to focus on Aitutaki recovery

Tuesday 6 April 2010 | Published in Regional

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NZ foreign affairs minister Murray McCully is still set to visit the Cooks this week, despite the last-minute postponement of the joint ministerial forum.

McCully is due to arrive early today and return to New Zealand on Thursday evening.

Preparations are being made for McCully, deputy prime minister and minister of foreign affairs Robert Wigmore as well as Aitutaki recovery coordinator and finance minister Wilkie Rasmussen to fly to Aitutaki to inspect the recovery work undertaken following the devastation of Cyclone Pat in February.

Last month NZ pledged $5.5 million in cyclone recovery assistance towards government’s $9.4 million recovery plan.

Wigmore has said that arrangements for McCully’s visit are falling into place and he is confident that it will constitute a further positive step in the deepening of relations between the Cook Islands and NZ.

Discussions with government and people of Aitutaki on the way forward for the island’s recovery are being planned.

“This will represent an ideal opportunity for Mr McCully to see at first hand the recovery effort and to hear from both government and the people of Aitutaki our plans for the future,” said Wigmore.

Returning to Rarotonga on Tuesday evening, there will be an intense round of meetings and events organised for McCully with government, the private sector and other Cook Islands individuals and groups over the next two days.

Wigmore explained that during McCully’s visit, “Government will raise with the minister a number of issues it considers of importance and we look forward to discussing issues that the minister might also like to raise.”

It is through such dialogue, he said, that the two countries can understand each other’s position and the relationship is set to be strengthened by follow-up actions over the coming months.

No official explanation for the postponement of the first joint ministerial forum has been given – government will only say that McCully’s visit will help with preparations for the meeting that will now be held later in the year.

McCully is due to arrive on Aitutaki just before 9am today and will be met by Mayor Tai Herman.