Cook Islands suggested as retirement option for Kiwis
by New Zealand Herald
Cook Island MPs were asked today to consider opening up their borders so more New Zealanders could retire there.
A high level delegation from the Cooks attended Parliament's foreign affairs, defence and trade committee today as they sought information on select committees and roles of various office holders.
The Cooks have a population of roughly 15,000 with about 60,000 living in New Zealand. The country became independent in 1965 but has a special relationship which allows Cook Islands to maintain New Zealand citizenship.
Labour MP Ross Robertson said all Cook Islanders had the right to a New Zealand passport - and many used it. However, a cap of 500 people was set for the population of foreigners allowed permanent residency in the Cooks.
Another Labour MP Jill Pettis said the idea of moving to a warm Pacific country could appeal to retirees with skills and knowledge they could share with Cook Islanders.
Independent MP Taito Phillip Field said a five-year qualifying period to get superannuation for New Zealanders living in the islands was also a barrier.
Cook Island Parliament leader of the house Pastor John David Tangi said the issue had been raised in the past.
His personal opinion was it was undesirable for the islands to be over-populated with foreigners.
"The land area will continue to remain the same but the population will continue to rise."
The delegation talked about the problems of a small population and difficulties getting citizens to return.
The Government was trying to ensure it provided high level services in areas like health.
Transport was a problem because of a lack of competition. Travel between the islands was exorbitant with a trip to one of the outer islands by plane costing $2300 return.
National MP John Hayes said it was cheaper to charter a plane and he asked what was being done.
The delegation said work was being done to look at options with airlines from Tahiti and Samoa.
The possibility of linking up to shipping already going to Tokelau could be considered.
Mr Tangi suggested New Zealand pay for an inter-island air service.