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Freight subsidy to bring ‘some relief’ for Pa Enua

Wednesday 7 September 2022 | Written by Caleb Fotheringham | Published in National, Outer Islands

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Freight subsidy to bring  ‘some relief’ for Pa Enua
The barge is travelling North at the end of this week. – 22090520

Cook Islanders residing in the Northern Group are feeling the pinch of rising food prices and have welcomed government’s freight subsidy scheme which is expected to ease cost of living pain to households on the islands.

Cook Islands General Transport barge is heading to the Northern Group at the end of this week and will have food freight subsidised.

The barge is leaving for Nassau, Pukapuka and Palmerston.

Financial Secretary, Garth Henderson said the subsidy was a contracted agreement between Ministry of Finance and Economic Management (MFEM) and the individual shipping companies. He said the subsidy amount at this stage was not for public knowledge.

“This (subsidy) was designed to reduce the freight rate of food products only to the Northern group to assist with the trying times in the Pa Enua,” Henderson said.

“This has been in play going into three years and is constantly being reviewed according to the needs and costs of services to provide relief to our Northern group communities.”

Henderson said it was designed to reduce the cost of living for people residing in the Northern Group and more so during Covid-19 to maintain flows of freight.

“At this point we will continue this till the end of this financial year.”

The subsidy started in 2018. A media statement from MFEM dated April 2018 said the subsidy received was the equivalent of 40 per cent of the operating expenditure for a Taio Shipping voyage to Manihiki, Rakahanga and Penrhyn.

The Cook Islands General Transport barge is also scheduled to visit Manihiki, Rakahanga and Penrhyn at the end of this month.

Penrhyn island’s executive officer, Puna Vano said any opportunity for the barge to visit was a blessing.

Vano said the people on the island had noticed a big increase in the prices of commodities.

“The first thing is the fuel, $4.13 a litre for the petrol.

“If you were to compare it with boxing that is standing there and taking a left hook from Mike Tyson.”

Vano said the price of canned corned beef had also increased – when he first arrived to the island last year he paid $7.50 for a can, now it’s up to $10.

“I know some people will say you have got fish there, you should eat fish. Our people do eat fish everyday but if you eat fish every day for one to two months surely you want just a slight change. That’s when the corned beef comes in, that’s when the carton of chicken comes in.”

Vano said he was grateful for the subsidy.

“Already living in the outer islands is hard and without the subsidy it makes it more tough.

“With the subsidy it does help, I wouldn’t say totally, but at least it does reduce some stress off the people who chose to live on the island.”

Vano said people have been leaving the outer islands since the 70s.

“This is purely because the outer islands people have been penalised in a way for choosing to live on the island.

“That is why we have huge numbers of people migrating to Rarotonga, New Zealand and Australia.”

Vano said people from Rarotonga should visit the outer islands “to learn what it’s like to live here”.