Cook Islands Prime Minister Henry Puna says his nation will open its borders to Aotearoa on Friday, June 19. He is hoping his New Zealand counterpart, Jacinda Ardern, will return the favour.
“It makes sense that New Zealand opens its border to us because we are both in control of Covid-19 now,” Puna says.
He says tourism forms 70% of Cook Islands GDP and Aotearoa accounts for 67% of all incoming visitors. Now winter is coming, he says New Zealanders may want to sit it out in a warmer place.
Cook Islands citizens will be allowed to return from New Zealand from June 19 on.
But Puna is more than happy to waive self-isolation requirements for people coming from Aotearoa. He hopes Ardern will do the same for people returning from his country.
“The Cook Islands will be a perfect test case in opening its international border,” Puna says.
Don't wait for the Aussies
Waiting for the Australian borders to open, is in Puna's mind, an unnecessary delay.
Prime Minister Puna says that opening up to Aotearoa has no risk whatsoever.
In addition, he called on Aotearoa to remember the free association connection that his nation has with New Zealand.
"We are New Zealand citizens. We are part of New Zealand. We have New Zealand passports. We use New Zealand currency and we speak your language."
The prime minister explained that his government used its coffers to prop up Cook Island businesses during the lockdown. But he says Cook Island businesses cannot rely on government funds forever. His nation needs Aotearoa tourist dollars to survive.
"New Zealand and the Cook Islands are family. During difficult times, families look out for one another. These are those times. That's all we're asking from New Zealand. Look out for your family."