Cook Islands in business talks with FOMA

By Talisa Kupenga

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern's Pacific Mission has created an opportunity for FOMA and Cook Islands representatives to discuss furthering business opportunities. 

Despite strong cultural links between Māori and the Cook Islands only one iwi has signed a covenant with our Pacific neighbours there.

Cook Island Investment Director Caren Rangi says, "We have whakapapa, history, we have a range of connections but how are we capitalising on those for the good of our whanau?"

FOMA Chairwoman Traci Houpapa, Heamana says, "It's time for us as NZ Māori, as Aotearoa, to stand alongside our Pasifika whanaunga."

In 2015 the Kingitanga signed a covenant with the Cook Islands to explore collaborative business investment opportunities including areas such as fisheries, farming, technology, property development, retail, energy production, hotels and tourism.

Rangi says, "not too much has happened since then but it has given us cause to reflect about 'what about other iwi?'  We should start to generate some of those conversations to see what mutually beneficial business opportunities there might be for us all."

Houpapa says, "NZ Māori already have the access, the opportunity and the trade and export relations and relationships that we can exploit and positively leverage for our Pasifika relations."

Houpapa says the CPTPP brings nations together in a big economic block which is significant for global and international exchange that could benefit the Pacific.   

"Our focus needs to be now as a Pacific Member state and looking at how we can align with the various nations and then support the development of economic opportunities," says Houpapa. 

"That's going to be a different focus than we have had in Asia or in Europe, North America or South [America].  It's going to be more on how we can work alongside of whānau and hapū in the different nations and then how can we look at tracks to market." 

Rangi says building these ties could provide incentives for young people to return to the Cook Islands post-study in New Zealand and create more job opportunities.