Cook Islands: Ministry of Finance

Cook Islands Ministry of Finance News

CINSF Appeal

On Monday 17 November, the Cook Islands Court of Appeal made a decision on the constitutionality of the Cook Islands National Superannuation Fund Act 2000. The Court of Appeal found and declared that the Act is a valid enactment of the Parliament of the Cook Islands.

Cook Islands Minister of Finance, the Honourable Mark Brown pointed out that the Cook Islands National Superannuation Fund was a fundamental pillar of the country’s retirement policy. “We are becoming a more prosperous nation, we must move with the times, and we must ensure that the standard of living that our people have become accustomed to are maintained as much as possible in their retirement”

“The Cook Islands National Superannuation Fund is beneficial to the lives of workers in the Cook Islands, not detrimental. I was heartened by today’s decision, the Government recognises that there are improvements which could be made to the Act and we will look at those in the near future.

All of us, Government, the CINSF Board and employers need to continue pointing out to CINSF members what the benefits of saving for retirement are.

The recent effort by the CINSF Board to hold an annual general information meeting for members which included representatives from the New Zealand Public Trustee, the investment managers, Russell Investment, was a welcome step in this direction.

Ultimately, this sort of action is the best way for members to keep the Board accountable and be informed about what is happening with their retirement savings.”

In pointing out what modifications may be made to the Act Minister Brown pointed out that these would only be presented to the Parliament following a meaningful consultation and dialogue with stakeholders, including employers and members.

“The Act will continue to preserve the spirit of establishing a pool of savings which will provide retirement income for workers in the Cook Islands, through a mixture of personal savings, employer contributions and investment earnings. Any modifications will need to ensure this spirit is preserved and is in the interest of the member at the time of retirement.”

The full decision can be found at www.mfem.gov.ck.

 

Minister Brown welcomes the first reading of the Social Assistance Bill by the New Zealand Parliament

The Cook Islands Government welcomed the first reading of the Social Assistance Bill by the New Zealand Parliament earlier this week. 
 
The Bill will, if passed, would allow Cook Islanders who have lived in New Zealand for ten years, at least five after the age of 50, to return to the Cook Islands to work after they've turned 55 but still be able to collect the New Zealand Superannuation or Veteran's fund at age 65. The New Zealand Government have estimated this change will mean 245 people will become newly eligible when the bill is passed, this number likely increasing by an additional 16 people each year.
 
New Zealand Social Development Minister Anne Tolley, in speaking to the Bill articulated the change was restricted to the Cook Islands, Niue, and Tokelau in recognition of New Zealand's "close constitutional relationship, shared citizenship and unique legal arrangements" with realm countries like the Cook Islands.
 
The Cook Islands Minister of Finance, the Honourable Mark Brown pointed out the significant efforts that the Government had gone towards requesting New Zealand to improve the accessibility of New Zealand Superannuation to allow Cook Islanders to retire in the Cook Islands.
 
“It is not a secret that the Government of the Cook Island would like to remove the five year requirement after the age of 55.  It would be a fabulous step if people could, at 50 years of age know they can come home while they are still productive and work or get into business with comfort of knowing that they qualify by being resident in one of the realm countries like the Cook Islands. 
 
But this is a significant improvement, and improvements happen incrementally, this is a positive step in the right direction.”
 
Minister Brown outlined that the Government will make a public submission to the Parliamentary Select Committee and encouraged others in the Cook Islands to do so as well.
 
 

Manihiki Pearl Farmers Begin to Receive Equipment to Revitalise the Pearl Industry in the Northern Cook Islands

The Manihiki Island Government has commenced dispersing pearl equipment supplied as part of the Cook Islands and New Zealand pearl revitalisation programme.  The programme aims to encourage the sustainable growth of the Cook Islands pearl industry through an increase in production and quality.
 
Eighteen pearl farmers on the Manihiki atoll in the northern group have qualified to receive a portion of the $1.15 million grant. This will be injected into their businesses through the provision of various types of equipment which will assist them to improve production and quality. The equipment include items such as ropes and floats, which are used directly to suspend the pearl producing oysters in the lagoon, as well as building equipment used to revitalise seeding facilities. To be eligible to receive equipment farmers were required to meet specific criteria:
•being an active farmer who has produced at least 500 pearls per annum for at least the previous two years;
•be a member of the Manihiki Pearl Farmer’s Association (MFPA); and 
•a current permit holder, compliant with all relevant conditions.
 
Additionally, farmers are required to sign up to the Manihiki lagoon management plan to help protect the lagoon.
 
The equipment being supplied forms part of a subsidised grant scheme whereby farmers are required to pay 20 per cent of the cost of the equipment into a revolving fund administered by the Manihiki Island Government.  Those funds will then be used to maintain a bulk store of equipment for further pearl industry development.
 
The initial list of equipment requested by farmers was vetted and agreed to by representatives of the Manihiki Pearl Farmers Association, the Ministry of Marine Resources and the Manihiki Island Government.
 
A major bonus of the grant programme is a potential cleanup of the Manihiki lagoon. Under the new arrangements, successful pearl farmers are required to sign up to the new management plan to protect the lagoon. It will also provide an orderly procedure for the licensing of new farms.
 
Mayor of Manihiki Ngamata Napara outlined that after the long wait the farmers are very pleased to get their equipment. “The farmers are very keen to get to work.  Two farmers have already been in to pay their deposit and we expect more to come in next week.”
 
Each farmer has received a mixture of material specific to their individual farming needs:
•farming equipment such as ropes, floats and baskets;
•construction material for the rehabilitation of seeding houses, such as cement, timber, roofing iron and nails (seeding houses are often shared amongst farmers); and
•diving equipment, such as tanks, snorkels, flipper and masks.
 
The farmers who have been deemed eligible to receive equipment are as follows:
•Trainee Samson $9,349 
•Apii Piho $13,462 
•Bernadino Kaina $3,865 
•Helen McKenzie $24,295 
•Kaina Karaponga and Reni Karina $18,861 
•Makira $40,515 
•Tangi Toka $11,658 
•Mataio Johnson $73,531 
•Tina Browne $10,300
•Ricaldo William $14,748
•Tuatai Piniata $19,485
•John Koteka $8,419
•John Mc Leod $39,689
•Kora Kora $58,807
•Mehau and Mokoha Johnson $51,091
•Vavia Dean Nimau $15,932
•Sam Karaponga $61,500
•Tangi Napara $15,736
 
 
END.
 
For further information contact: Peter Tierney
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Cook Islands Confirms Participation in the Pacific Catastrophe Risk Insurance Pilot

The Cook Islands Government has confirmed its participation in the Pacific Catastrophe Risk Insurance Pilot (PCRIP), which was renewed for its third season with five other Pacific island countries: Marshall Islands, Samoa, Tonga, Vanuatu, and Cook Islands. The third season will run from November 1, 2014 to October 31, 2015.

As of 1 November 2014, the Cook Islands is covered against emergency losses caused by major Tropical Cyclones for a 12 month period until October 31, 2015. The premium of USD100,000 paid by the Government was able to secure catastrophe risk insurance coverage which will provide an immediate payout of up to USD2.8 million in the case of a major tropical cyclone hitting the major centres of Rarotonga and Aitutaki.

The premium cost was shared between the major SOE’s (Ports Authority, Airport Authority and Te Aponga Uira) and the central government.

Minister for Finance, the Honourable Mark Brown, outlined the PCRIP was part of the Government’s active policy of improving the economic resilience of the Cook Islands.

“The coverage provided through the PCRIP as well as increasing the Natural Disaster Response Fund to $0.636 million provides the Government with the financial capacity to respond confidently and immediately to the needs of the community in the case of a significant natural disaster. It is not a case of if, but when we are struck by a cyclone we want to be focused on meeting the immediate needs of the community to ensure their lives get back on track. These two initiatives of the Government will let us focus on that as opposed to worrying about the financial impacts. We are putting money away for the eventual rainy day.”

Clarifying Issues Around Applicable Standards for Te Mato Vai

Recent press on quality assurance processes around the Te Mato Vai ring main construction has not captured the level of quality assurance processes which are being undertaken to ensure the quality of the ringmain pipeline.


The previous quality assurance process which was applied during the construction of the pipeline laid through the “Project City” project involved only testing for water pressure.

As Mr Latu Kupa, project manager Te Mato Vai clarified in his letter to the Editor of the Cook Islands News, the laying of the pipeline for Te Mato Vai has undertaken a more stringent two stage testing process. The first stage being water pressure testing, to test for leaks in the pipes, the second test being peels tests to check the adhesiveness of the electro fusion welds that join the separate lengths of pipe.

Of the twenty joints which have been tested since the commencement of the ring main, of these 19 have passed and the testing of one sample is currently being reviewed by CCECC and Kew.

The recently completed detailed design for Te Mato Vai has outlined that the maximum pressure existing anywhere along the pipeline will be 7 Bar. Testing is being undertaken to 9 Bar as per the New Zealand Standard 2566 (2008).

KEW is contracted to supervise the quality of the work being done and has engaged a quality assurance specialist. This quality assurance specialist is inspecting both the work and the subsequent two stage testing.

The arrangement between Kew and CCECC is working well and there is a high level of confidence amongst all stakeholders that the standard of work being undertaken will meet accepted New Zealand and Australian standards. 

 

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