Measures have been put in place in Aitutaki to ensure there is no water disruption to the public and the regional leaders attending the Pacific Islands Forum Leaders retreat next week.
Aitutaki will host the Pacific Islands Forum (PIF)
Leaders Retreat as part of the 52nd Pacific Islands Forum Leaders
Meeting (PIFLM52) to be held from November 6-10.
Rarotonga will host over 500 delegates, including
Forum Leaders and their delegations, Council of Regional Organisations of the
Pacific (CROP) representatives, regional private sector and civil society
representatives, Forum Associate members and Forum Observers, as well as Forum
Dialogue Partners. However, only the Pacific Leaders and officials will attend
the retreat in Aitutaki on Wednesday, November 8.
Residents of the Southern Group Island in October
raised their concerns and frustrations about the ongoing water shortage crisis
and hoped the upcoming Pacific Islands Forum Leaders Retreat will bring some
solution to their problems.
Aitutaki is prone to water shortages given that it is
reliant on rainwater and gallery (underground water reservoir) supplies, which
are directly related to rainfall. Households have been experiencing water cuts
for extended periods of up to four weeks, while some for five months and more.
Responding to questions from Cook Islands News, a
spokesperson for the Prime Minister’s Office said: “The Aitutaki Island
Government has been closely monitoring the water supply issue that has affected
certain parts of the island. They have put in place measures to ensure water
supply continues through alternating supplies between communities.”
The spokesperson said water works staff are rostered
on a 24-hour basis to ensure water pumps are effectively operational and that
issues are attended to promptly.
“The Island Government confirms that they are aware of
the needs of the Forum retreat (a 24-hour visit) and will ensure the needs of
the community are not compromised.”
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Immigration (MFAI)
earlier said Aitutaki, with a population of just over 1800 people, is leaving
no stone unturned as it prepares to welcome Pacific Leaders and officials for
The Leaders Meeting opens in Rarotonga on Monday,
November 6, with subsequent meetings held on Tuesday and Wednesday before
Leaders take a 50-minute flight from Rarotonga to Aitutaki for the Leaders
Retreat, where they will further reflect on issues discussed.
Karen Ngamata and Mereana Bishop, who form part of the
PIFLM52 logistics team, have been liaising closely with the Mayor, Executive
Officer, Island Council, Members of Parliament, accommodators, and businesses
alongside the logistics team based in Aitutaki to ensure things run smoothly.
“Members of the PIFLM52 logistics team have been
liaising with Leader representatives of Aitutaki for a few months now, and
those engagements have picked up in recent weeks as we get closer to the
Leaders Meeting,” Ngamata said in a MFAI statement.
“The Cook Islands last hosted the Forum Leaders
Meeting in 2012 when the Leaders Retreat was also held in Aitutaki, and the
learnings from then have provided a solid platform for us to prepare for next
month. The island of Aitutaki is extremely proud to again be hosting Pacific
Leaders, and they are looking forward to once again showcasing the best of
their culture and hospitality.”
Aitutaki possesses one of the world’s most beautiful
lagoons, where visitors can look forward to languid, leisurely days with
jaw-dropping surroundings. The island will be the backdrop of the Leaders
Retreat that will deliver the PIFLM52 Leaders Communique that will direct the
regional work of the Pacific Islands Forum for the year. In true Aitutaki
style, the Leaders Retreat discussions will be held aboard a vaka within the
lagoon – the perfect setting for confidential and open discussions between
Pacific Leaders, MFAI said.
“Out on the Aitutaki Lagoon, away from the noise of
global tensions, we can re-connect our Leaders to our ocean identity and what’s
most important for our Pacific people,” said Ngamata.
“This is a fitting setting for our Leaders to chart
and agree on the regional collective actions for the year ahead and how we
might mobilise efforts and resources together for our Blue Pacific and her
Air Rarotonga will transport Leaders to Aitutaki,
where Leaders and their delegations will stay at Aitutaki properties, sample
Aitutaki delicacies, utilize lagoon tour services, and be welcomed at Orongo
Marae in the main township area by the island.
“We’re confident Aitutaki will be ready and are
looking forward to continuing to work closely with our counterparts in
Aitutaki,” said Ngamata.