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[Media Release - MFAI]

Te Kauono Tutara e te Mana Tiaki – Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Immigration


Cook Islands establish taskforce to progress joint work with New Zealand on quarantine free travel


Noting keen public interest in the establishment of a Cook Islands – New Zealand ‘air bridge’, the Cook Islands Government through Cabinet this week mandated Cook Islands officials to rapidly progress discussions with New Zealand officials on an arrangement to facilitate two way quarantine-free travel between the Cook Islands and New Zealand.

This week Cabinet mandated the establishment of a Cook Islands ‘Border Easement Taskforce’ to rapidly assess and support the operationalisation and implementation of two way quarantine-free travel between the Cook Islands and New Zealand. This Taskforce, to be Chaired by the Deputy Prime Minister, is supported by Heads of Ministry and senior officials from the Ministries of Foreign Affairs & Immigration (MFAI), Health, Tourism, Finance & Economic Management and the Crown Law Office. MFAI proceeds as lead coordinating agency of the Taskforce, to support ongoing discussions with the New Zealand Government. Co-ordination of New Zealand Government engagement in border easement discussions is being led by New Zealand’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade and include New Zealand border agencies and health.


“The Cook Islands have been officially COVID-free since April,” said Deputy Prime Minister Mark Brown. “Since January we’ve put in place stringent border controls to protect our vulnerable resident population, increasing the restrictions on entry in response to the spread of the pandemic globally, finally culminating in an almost total border closure on the 25th March. Given our COVID-free status, and New Zealand’s own ‘go hard and go early strategy’ resulting in elimination of community transmission in New Zealand, we look forward to two way quarantine free with New Zealand as soon as it is safe to do so.”


Today marked the 7th flight in seven weeks of quarantine free arrivals into Rarotonga from Auckland of passengers who are Cook Islands residents and have been in New Zealand 30 days prior to entry to the Cook Islands. “In terms of the Cook Islands readiness, our Border Easement Taskforce will shortly finalise a Readiness Assessment that weaves together our preparedness levels across our health, border agency and industry settings. It is important, for the confidence of our people, businesses and community as well as New Zealand that we have a clear and comprehensive assessment of our readiness, to ensure that the resumption of casual travel between the Cook Islands and New Zealand can be undertaken safely,” said DPM Brown.


Said DPM Brown, “In addition to the Readiness Assessment, we’ve recently launched the Cook Islands Promise and Kia Orana Plus programme, both of which have been designed to ensure industry and traveller safety, and work continues in parallel to shore up our health and border agency preparedness. I am pleased to confirm, following comments made by New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Arden yesterday, that it is looking likely the establishment of quarantine-free travel arrangements between the Cook Islands and New Zealand will proceed ahead of the same with Australia. This is a major step forward, and one that I believe speaks to the prominence of our special constitutional relationship. I look forward to sharing further updates regarding the arrangement for two way quarantine free travel between the Cook Islands and New Zealand and I am confident this matter is receiving the utmost prioritization within both Cook Islands and New Zealand settings at this time.”

Queries regarding this release can be directed to MFAI Director of International Affairs Karopaerangi Ngatoko at karopaerangi.ngatoko@cookislands.gov.ck, phone +682 29347.


Photos:

1 CKI Deputy Prime Minister Mark Brown press conference following Cook Islands-New Zealand Joint Ministerial Forum July 2020;

2 CKI Border Easement Taskforce members, L-R: Karopaerangi Ngatoko, MFAI Director International Affairs; Foreign Secretary Tepaeru Herrmann; Financial Secretary Garth Henderson; Solicitor General Stuart Baker; MFAI Principal Immigration Officer Kairangi Samuela during Joint CKI/NZ Joint Border Easement discussions held 30 July 2020;

3 Joint CKI/NZ Joint Border Easement discussions held 30 July 2020 from top left going clockwise – Rachel Bennett, New Zealand Acting High Commissioner to the Cook Islands; Tepaeru Herrmann, Cook Islands Foreign Secretary; Megan McCoy, New Zealand Ministry of Health, General Manager Global Health; Dr Josephine Herman, Cook Islands Secretary of Health

[END.]

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