Puna challenges Cooks diaspora to help country

The Cook Islands Prime Minister, Henry Puna says one of his challenges is to compel Cook Islanders who live abroad to contribute to the development of the country, even if they won't return.

Puna is in New Zealand as an official guest of the Government to celebrate the 50th anniversary of self government in free association with New Zealand.

He says because Cook Islanders, as New Zealand citizens, are free to travel to New Zealand and Australia, they can't be stopped from travelling.

“The challenge for me as Prime Minister is to engage with these Cook Islanders, although they may not come home, you know we need to tap into them. Have a relationship with them, so that they feel compelled to contribute, from wherever they may be, to the development and the growth of the Cook Islands, moving forward.”

At a press conference in Auckland, Henry Puna was asked what the government is doing to try and combat a declining population due to people moving to New Zealand and Australia.

“A lot of people think that because we only have about 13 or 14 thousand Cook Islanders back home, that we have a serious de-population issue. We don't. I just want to remind you that back in 1928 when Sir Maui Pomare was Minister of Pacific Island Affairs, he did a census of the Cook Islands population. You know how many Cook Islanders there were back then? 2,000. So we have come a long way," he said.