Financial Secretary Office News

Financial Secretary Office News

Media Release: Shipping Subsidy Commences

On Thursday 12 April Taio Shipping departed Rarotonga for Manihiki, Rakahanga and Penryhn forming the first part of the first voyage under the government funded shipping subsidy.

Taio Shipping has received the equivalent of 40% of their operating expenditure for the voyage. The subsidy for 2018 is a trial beginning with the Northern Group, aimed to improve the regularity and reliability of shipping services to the Pa Enua by contracting shipping suppliers to depart within 3 days of the agreed date of departure, weather permitting. The departure is expected to take place regardless of the load booked on the voyage, to create a situation whereby the advertised dates can be relied upon by individuals, businesses and island governments in the Northern Group.

In return for the operating subsidy Taio Shipping has offered discounted freight and passenger rates for the subsidized voyages. MFEM will work with partner Ministries to assess the impact that these discounted freight and passenger rates have on cost of living in the Pa Enua.

Island Administrations have been alerted to advise if goods have been damaged or short landed and if discounted freight and passenger rates have been charged.

The second departure from Rarotonga will take place on Thursday 19 April, with Taio Shipping departing for Pukapuka, Nassau and Palmerston.

Future voyages under the 2018 trial are expected to take place in June, August and October. The contract for the June and October voyages is yet to be finalized. Once the dates are finalized MFEM will release a media statement informing people of the timelines to assist the Pa Enua in planning the receipt and sale of goods and services.

Itikianga Tinamou Ora – the Cook Islands and New Zealand, evolving and dynamic

Prime Minister Puna delivered a keynote address to a full house of more than 100 drawn from New Zealand Government, the diplomatic corp, business and academia in the Legislative Council Chamber in Parliament Buildings at an event hosted by the New Zealand Institute of International Affairs (NZIIA) on Wednesday 4 April.

Since its establishment in 1934, NZIIA has played a valuable role in promoting discussion and understanding of international issues and emerging trends, especially from a New Zealand perspective.

The topic for the speech was Itikianga Tinamou Ora: The Cook Islands in Free Association with New Zealand.  Prime Minister Puna stressed the importance of the relationship “which is founded on close historical and cultural ties, unique constitutional arrangements, strong people to people ties and shared values and have endured and strengthened over time.”

 The relationship was underpinned by the notion of Itiki as “the ties that bind” and also likened to the characteristics of tinamou meaning steadfast, enduring and permanent as well as ora which is alive, living and dynamic.

Prime Minister Puna emphasised the “relationship of free association has been an enduring, evolving and living partnership and must continue to be so as we look to the future.” The Cook Islands continues to value this special relationship with New Zealand and is committed to maintaining the current citizenship status.

In keeping with the core focus of the NZIIA, the Prime Minister also expanded on the theme of the Cook Islands place in the international arena and especially in the Pacific. New Zealand’s Pacific re-set was welcomed and would contribute to a deeper understanding of the region. Although the Pacific is turning into a contestable space, the Cook Islands were comfortable in dealing with newer partners in a collaborative manner.  This partnership approach was taken in the ground breaking project Te Mato Vai where the Cook Islands, New Zealand and China are showing that the Pacific can be a region of cooperation, and through partnerships, can bring about transformational change in the region.

The issue of Official Development Assistance was raised in the speech and the way in which the Cook Islands were looking to “re-set our partnerships to move beyond a development focus to one of equality and mutual benefit.”

The Prime Minister also highlighted the challenges facing the Cook Islands in terms of climate change, ocean management, communications, economic development and growing security threats.

The NZIIA session concluded with a question and answer session with all the Cook Islands Ministers fielding a number of questions from the audience ranging from citizenship, cultural identity, and the nature of the constitutional relationship.


Click here for a full transcript of the Prime Minister's speech

Press Release: False declarations result in successful prosecutions

On 21 March 2018 Cook Island Customs (Customs) successfully prosecuted the captain and engineer of the Ecuadorian flagged vessel the Nino Maravilla which is currently berthed at Aitutaki.

The two offenders were prosecuted under section 261(1) (a) and (c) of the Customs Revenue and Border Protection Act 2012 for providing false declarations on entry into the Cook Islands. This is the first time Customs have brought a prosecution under this provision. The offences carry a maximum fine of $3,000 when heard before a Judge.

Both offenders held prior criminal convictions for which they had served prison sentences in the US and were subsequently deported for. Both offenders failed to disclose this information when completing their arrival cards.

Both matters were heard before three Justices of the Peace at the Court in Aitutaki. Counsel for Customs, Geraldine Ryan, emphasised the seriousness of the offending, and stressed the importance of the protection of Cook Islands borders.

In delivering their sentence the Justices of the Peace found the defendants guilty in all respects. The court handed down the maximum fine allowable by Justices of the Peace, being $1,000 for each offender with court costs of $50 per offender.

As a result, clear precedents have been established for future Customs prosecutions under this provision. The outcomes represent a significant win for Customs, and sends a strong message that Customs are serious about border protection and will not tolerate breaches of its law.

The outcome also highlights the result of excellent collaboration at the border between local law enforcement agencies as well as international agencies such as the New Zealand Customs Service, Australian Federal Police and United States Department of Homeland Security who provided crucial intelligence and on ground support during the operation.

26 March 2018