Cook Islands covid watch
An exclusive summary by the website author who is a former BBC TV and radio journalist
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The content of this page - unless otherwise credited - is a summary of stories from  Cook Islands News, the daily newspaper of the Cook Islands which is published Monday to Saturday inclusive

Its web site www.cookislandsnews.com is updated daily and is highly recommended as a trusted source of news.  This summary is published with permission of the copyright owners Cook Islands News Ltd.  Click on any underlined headlines for the full story on the newpaper's own website.  Photos unless otherwise credited are copyright Cook Islands News
 
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Cultural village dancers
The government is backing a bid to get world heritage status for a 600 year old village high in the hills around Rarotonga. Maungaroa was inhabited by Tinomana Ariki and his tribe long before the arrival of Christianity and was unihabited for many years before it was transformed into a cultural village visitor attraction. The   Ministry of Culture says HIghland Paradise is an "unparallelled example of a living marae" and its asking UNESCO to designate it.  Photo: Highland Paradise website
A new king has been crowned on Mangaia, and the entire population of the island was there to watch.  Tangi Tereapii was installed Numangatini Ariki at Te Maruata-Nui-o-Numangatini marae. The day long event was also attended by friends and families from Rarotonga, Aitutaki and Atiu. Marguees 20 metres long were filled with food to share.
Mangaia's new king
NEWS FROM THE OUTER ISLANDS
Plans by a New Zealand businessman to launch a a new airline providing direct flights from to Rarotonga from Wellington and Christchurch have been put on hold. Mike Pero was proposing to launch Pasifika Air with six return flights a week from June. But  the multi-milionaire says the uncertainty over a "travel bubble" with New Zealand means they will now have to wait. Above: artist's impression of the new plane's livery
washed up green turtle
A green sea turtle which died after ingesting a plastic bag has led to a renewed call to end plastic pollution.  The turtle was washed up on Rutaki beach on Rarotonga just before Christmas. Award winning ocean photographer, Charlotte Pioho has add her voice to the local environmental group, Te Ipukarea Society in urging islanders to eliminate their use of plastics. 
Plans to upgrade the airport on remote Manihiki are on hold because there's no funding to start the project. The aim is to seal and extend the tiny coral runway so it can handle larger planes and enable 34 people to land on the island at a time instead of the current 15. But the government is hoping work can start in July
What a catch
One of the largest species of reef fish has been caught off Manihiki. JeanMarie Williams is pictured with the 30kg humpback wrasse which his son, Gabral landed using a handline with octopus weat for bait. It was so heavy he could barely lift it.
The minimum wage in the Islands will remain at NZ$8 an hour at least until July 2022.  The uncertain economic climate caused by the Covid pandemic is one of the main reasons why. But there are fears the decision will drive more Islanders to move to New Zealand where the minimum wage has just been raised to NZ$20 an hour
Islanders on Pukapuka and its near neighbour, Nassau are battling to protect the coral reef from a hundreds of crown of thorns starfish which are damaging it. 460 have been collected so far around Pukapuka and 135 around Nassau. Pukapuka's executive officer, Pio Ravarua said 335 were retrieved in a single day at the beginning of March but two weeks later, they'd been replaced by 100 new ones
Left: Islanders with just one of the strarfish menace

New police commissioner Keenan
A Cook Islander who spent 36 years in the New Zealand Police Force is the new Police Commissioner. James Keenan said it was his long held dream to return home and use his skills to benefit his people. Raised in Rarotonga, Keenan was the first Cook Islander to become a commissioned officer in the New Zealand Police
The Islands has changed its Covid alert system to align to the one used by New Zealand. The current status is now defined as "Alert Level 1: Prepare" which means COVID-19 is not present in the Cook Islands and is controlled in New Zealand with no community transmission.       More details here
Mosquitos cause dengue fever
Pacific Resort Rarotonga from the air
The biggest hotel group in the Islands has completed a NZ$10 million renovation at two of its resort complexes. The Little Polynesian Resort  and the Pacific Resort, Rarotonga which are part of the Pacific Resort group, have had a complete renovation of rooms and bathrooms. The upgrades have also boosted the star ratings of the two resorts with Little Polynesian moving from four and a half stars to five stars, and the Pacific Resort Rarotonga moving from four to four and a half stars
Photo: Pacific Resort Rarotonga from their own photo gallery
Regional health experts are asking the World Health Organisation to help identify a new mystery virus on Rarotonga.  Symptoms are similar to dengue fever, but tests on those affected have confirmed it isn't that illness. Neither is it  the Zika or Chikungunya  viruses which are endemic. It's not known how many people have been affected by it.
Two cases of dengue fever have now been detected on Aitutaki, and the outbreak which began last February has now spread to Mauke and Mangaia.  But the majority of cases are still confined to Rarotonga. A further 10 people were treated in hospital, bringing the total number of hospitalisations since the start of the outbreak to 48. Young adults under 20 have been most affected. However, the Health Ministry says the outbreak is "under control". The endemic illness is spread by mosquitos
LGBT+ rainbow flag
MPs have delayed yet again a draft Bill which, if passed into law, would decriminalise homosexuality in the Islands. They've given a committee tasked with examining the new Crimes Bill another six months to consider it. The delays have been going on since December, 2019. An interim last November claimed that out of 167 submissions, the majority wanted to keep homosexuality a crime. But the proposal has been strongly condemned by human rights group around the world.
A Cook Islander who was holidaying in Rarotonga from his home in Egpyt and tested positive for Coronavirus has been fined NZ$500. The Ministry of Health said the man was asymptomatic and his test was deemed an historic one which meant he was longer infectious. But he was prosecuted for making a false declaration on his arrival form and could have faced a NZ$10,000 or a year in prison. Before arriving in Rarotonga, the defendant filled out two travel declarations.  In both instances, the defendant on the declarations said he had not been diagnosed with Covid-19 despitetesting positive on May 5 in Auckland.


Jetstar plane
Australian low cost carrier, Jetstar is planning to re-enter the market with flights between Auckland and Rarotonga from October. The airline says it can't fly from Australia yet because there'e no travel bubble, but it's hoping to fly from Auckland from 16 October and Rarotonga from 19th. If approved, it will be in direct competition with Air New Zealand.
First tourists from New Zealand
Just four weeks after the first tourists for more than a year arrived from New Zealand, the government is now looking at opening the Islands' border with Australia. The Cook Islands Tourism manager for the region said there could be around 45,500 visitors for Australia between July and October if arrangements could be agreed. The government has also set aside $6.5 million over the next 12 months to subsidise Air New Zealand if flights between Los Angeles and Rarotonga can be reinstated.
Second vaccinations against Covid have started on Rarotonga with the Health Ministry hoping to complete the whole programme across the islands by the end of July. More than 90% of the eligible population on Aitutaki have now had their first vaccination.