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Four named on the 2023 King’s Birthday Honours

Monday 19 June 2023 | Written by CI News Staff | Published in Features, Local, National, Weekend


Four named on the 2023 King’s Birthday Honours
Dr Teariki Noovao. OPM/23061926

Four well-known Cook Islands residents who have contributed to the health, judiciary and business sector have been named on the 2023 King’s Birthday Honours.

Prime Minister Mark Brown officially announced and congratulated Dr Teariki Noovao, Nooapii Tearea, Christopher Earle Vaile and William George Doherty as the Cook Islands recipients of this year’s King’s Birthday Honours awards.

Dr Noovao has been made an Officer of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire for services to health, the public and the community and Tearea named a Member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire for services to the judiciary and the community.

Businessmen Vaile and Doherty have received British Empire Medal for services to business and the community.

Christopher Earle Vaile. OPM/23061928

Speaking to Cook Islands News yesterday, Dr Noovao said the honour “hasn’t sunk in yet”.

The 76-year-old surgeon said he was not aware of the recognition until he saw it on Facebook.

Dr Noovao said the government had contacted him about his biodata which he had provided, adding the idea of the King’s Birthday Honours was “sort of floating around then”.

William George Doherty. OPM/23061929

“It’s an honour and I’m grateful for it. I will receive this on behalf of my team, all the nurses and staff I have worked with, my family and everyone who have supported me. I might be wearing the medal but it will be on behalf of everyone.”

In a statement, the Office of the Prime Minister said His Majesty King Charles III formally approved the honours list for the first time this year following the death of his mother, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.

PM Brown said: “Each of these deserving recipients has tirelessly served our nation and their communities and it is only fitting that they are recognised in this way.”

Dr Teariki Noovao, OBE

A beloved surgeon who has dedicated his working life to the health and wellbeing of the Cook Islands people, Dr Teariki Noovao has been recognised as an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) for services to health, the public and the community.

Born on the island of Mauke in 1947, Dr Noovao’s education journey began in the Northern Group Island of Penrhyn at Omoka Primary School. He was awarded scholarships to attend Tereora College in Rarotonga and Whanganui Boys’ College in New Zealand and graduated as a medical doctor from the Fiji School of Medicine in 1971.

Dr Noovao returned to the Cook Islands in 1972 and began his career as a Medical Doctor at Rarotonga Hospital. From 1973 to 1975 he had his first posting to the outer islands of the Cook Islands and was the sole doctor for the island of Atiu during this time.

Dr Noovao has touched countless lives through his service at Rarotonga Hospital, and on the islands of Manihiki, Rakahanga and Mangaia. Many stories have been shared over the years.

During his time on Manihiki and Rakahanga, Dr Noovao took the risky trips of sailing from one island to the other without beacons nor life jackets, to attend to the health needs of the islanders on Rakahanga.

On one occasion, Dr Noovao swam the Manihiki lagoon in the dark of night, to save a mother delivering a pair of twins, with one twin presenting with a breech presentation, when their powered boat struck a coral head.

Dr Noovao had to do an emergency Caesarean section to save the life of a mother on Mangaia. With just one nurse to assist, he went home and asked for prayers while he went to perform surgery.

These are just two of many notable events that Dr Noovao has done in difficult circumstances to save lives.

A great achievement and recognition of service for Dr Noovao was when he became the recipient in 1997 of the Surgeons International Award from Royal Australian College of Surgeons. This was a very proud moment for himself, his family, and the Cook Islands.

Over the years, Dr Noovao also contributed to the training of international trainee interns and young doctors who came to the Cook Islands on attachments from abroad, including those from Fiji, New Zealand, Australia and occasionally from England and Germany.

Dr Noovao still practices from his private clinic where he continues to attend to those in need.

Nooapii Tearea, MBE

Raised by his grandmother on the island of Atiu, Nooapii Tearea understood the importance of public service from a very young age.

Tearea has been named a Member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (MBE) for services to the public and the community.

Tearea completed his primary school education at Atiu Primary School and his secondary education at Tereora College in Rarotonga.

After finishing secondary school, he gained a Certificate and Diploma in Legal Studies extramurally through the University of the South Pacific (USP) campus on Rarotonga before further tertiary education at the University of Waikato, New Zealand where he was awarded a Bachelor of Laws.

Nooapii Tearea. OPM/23061927

He attained admission to the Bar and became a Barrister and Solicitor of the High Court in the Cook Islands in May 1997 and in New Zealand in December 1998. He also holds a Diploma of Legislative Drafting from USP.

Tearea had an extensive employment history with the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) where he began his career with the Ministry in March 1973, being appointed as a Clerk.

In 1997, Tearea was appointed as Registrar of Courts, Court of Appeal and High Court, Registrar of Births, Deaths & Marriages, and Companies and Incorporated Societies of the Cook Islands.

In 2014 he was appointed as Deputy Registrar (Criminal & Civil) of the High Court and by 2018 became the acting Secretary of Justice.

Tearea has held other various positions within the Public Service and on various Statutory Boards which include being the deputy Chief Electoral Officer of the Cook Islands and Airport Security Officer.

In 2019 Tearea was appointed as Ombudsman of the Cook Islands, a role he held until his resignation from Public Service in 2021.

Outside of his working roles, Tearea continues to contribute to his community. This includes chairman of the Pokoinu Neighbourhood Watch from February 2013 to 2018 and chairman of the Nikao-Atiu Community in November 2015.

Tearea has been an active member of the Cook Islands Christian Church (CICC) where he first became an Ekalesia member in 1968 with the Atiu CICC during the ministership of Reverend Tekeu Uea.

Christopher Vaile, BEM

Rarotonga, Cook Islands has been home to Christopher Vaile for the last 51 years. He was married to Mata (Kanny) Nicholas for 44 years and has three children and six grandchildren.

The well-known New Zealand-born entrepreneur has been recognised for services to Business and the community with a British Empire Medal.

Vaile’s career in Rarotonga began in 1972, when he was commissioned to supervise the manufacture of hot mix overlay for the new airport in Rarotonga. The success of the airport project led to Vaile being awarded further contracts for asphalt projects on the island.

Following this, he took over the lease of the island of Manuae, known then as the Hervey Islands, operating a 1600-acre copra plantation, and exporting the product to Rarotonga ready for international export.

In the late 1970s, as a hobby Vaile imported, processed, and sold locally grown Arabica coffee from the island of Atiu under the brand Royal Atiu Coffee to local hotels. In parallel, he also established Triad Enterprises Ltd with his brother-in-law George Ellis, which imported and retailed building hardware supplies.

In 1985, Vaile expanded his portfolio to include Triad Pacific Petroleum Ltd, which supplied the island and power station with fuel.

Vaile has demonstrated dedication to serving the Cook Islands community by generously donating resources, providing employment opportunities, and upskilling local workers during the five decades he has been resident in Rarotonga.

Moreover, he has played a vital role in building and supporting essential infrastructure and utilities for Rarotonga, which has been instrumental in driving economic growth and prosperity for the island.

His philosophy regarding life is the driving force behind his active involvement in promoting the welfare of all. He firmly believes that if you give generously and openly, you will eventually receive something in return, while those who only take will ultimately be judged by their actions, whether good or bad.

William Doherty, BEM

A Vietnam veteran who left school at 14 to work on his father’s farm in New Zealand and has gone on to become one of the Cook Islands’ most prominent figures, William Doherty was awarded a British Empire Medal for services to Business and the Community.

One of his proudest moments was when he received his Cook Islands Certificate of Permanent Residency in 1998.

Through his companies, both Landholdings Ltd and Ocean Fresh Ltd, Doherty has contributed to many areas of the community, namely the Rarotonga Hospital by donating much needed medical equipment and bedding as well as assisting in many other projects as requested by the hospital.

He has made generous contributions to sports through sponsorships of teams and individuals in various sports codes and over the years he has supported senior citizens through donations of whole tuna to the 65 year plus community of Takitumu and Avatiu during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Doherty contributes to the schools through ongoing donations of fish and gift vouchers for fundraisers and prize giving, sponsorships of school trips and donations of fish parts for student’s science projects.

He has also assisted with the Tupapa Culture Group with uniforms and materials for costumes.

Influenced by the hard work of his parents growing up, Doherty is a very generous and humble man and will continue to support his industrious team at Landholdings Ltd, Ocean Fresh Ltd, those in need, and his many friends, family and Victor Four family.