Media Release – Tuesday 27th January 2015
Hon. Mark Brown, Minister of Finance
Thoughts in the lead up to the 2015 Development Partners meeting
As the first of the major international meetings marking 50 years of self-government for the Cook Islands is about to get underway next month, the Minister of Finance – Mark Brown – says he has found it remarkable to look back at the development that has occurred and the changes that have taken place in his life time.
On the 9th of next month through to the 12th, the fifth Development Partner's meeting will be held here, and about 35 visitors representing the 20 or so donor countries, development banks and other bodies who help us with our development, will be here to mark our 50 years.
"I was two years old in 1965 and the Rarotonga I grew up in has changed dramatically. Back then there were no sealed roads. There were very few cars, there were some motorbikes, which were what every young man aspired to owning – but most people walked.
We walked everywhere. I remember the two picture theatres being packed out showing double features and after the pictures people walked home.
The airport was still a grass runway where piston and turbo-prop aircraft landed from time to time.
The two harbours were where we kids used to swim, and when boats came passengers and cargo were still brought ashore by lighter.
Most of the kai we ate was locally grown and produced; imported food was a luxury. Our treats and 'lollies' were local fruit. I despair when I see the fruit on loaded trees just left to rot or fall on the ground.
I remember large cultivations of oranges, which sadly have all gone now.
So there have been big changes even in my time. Back then the schools were very basic, but it was a privilege to go to school, and at the end of the day we tidied up our school. Our education system has changed immensely since then.
So has our health system. I remember when the doctor used to travel round the island and if you or someone in your family was sick you hung a nappy or cloth out and the doctor would know that someone needed attention and call in. The medicines available now far far out number remedies available back then, both in quantity and quality.
By the time I left to further my education in New Zealand in 1981 the international airport was operating and tourism was starting to grow.
It was a big deal then to catch the big jet. You dressed up in your Sunday best; none of this turning up in shorts and jandals. And there was a big crowd to see you off or come home.
I was away on and off for 10 years and the rate of change continued.
One of the biggest changes has been the number of Cook Islanders who have gone into business. Back in the 60s and 70s it was very rare to see a local in business, but now our people are seeing opportunities in things like the tourist industry and they have taken them. It's great to see.
That's why I want to encourage people to think about our five decades of development and nominate people, organisations or projects that have contributed since self-government to the 'good of the country. Don't forget too some of the major commercial developments – some of which are no longer here, not because of their fault but economic circumstances – some of them too helped develop our country for the time they existed.
There are five categories, one for each decade. There will be a supreme award and a people's choice award. Get your nomination in now.
The awards will be presented at a special dinner and awards ceremony on February 10th, which will be held in a former 'packing shed'.
And in keeping with our theme of development, the Development Partner's meeting will be held in the auditorium with sidebar events in the hostels of the sister islands to remind people that there is more to the Cook Islands that just Rarotonga.
Development Partners will also travel to Mitiaro and stay a night, again to show the diversity of our country.
Kia Orana, I encourage you to think hard about a nomination for an award."