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An exclusive summary by the website author who is a former BBC TV and radio journalist
The following  - 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.

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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
This update: 7th January, 2020
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Community leaders are pushing for a change in the law after four deaths this year where motorbike riders   weren't wearing crash helmets. The current helmet law only applies to tourists, under 25s and anyone travelling at more than 40 kph.  Drink driving and speeding have also been contributing factors in some deaths.  Cook Islands Security Director, Chris Denny acknowledged that wearing helmets was not part of the Islands' culture but said times had changed with more traffic and people driving faster on better roads.
Air Rarotonga plane
More planes should be able to land safely on the outer islands in bad weather thanks to new satellite-based equipment.   It's the result of a four year project between the government and Air New Zealand which has involved detailed airfield surveys and new approaches to the outer islands. The airport authority's director of operations, Tony Wearing said the satellite-based approaches would lessen the liklihood of domestic flights having to turn back to Rarotonga because of storms. 
Right:  Air Rarotonga Bandeirante plane (photo: Air Rarotonga)
Rhinoceros beetle
Islanders on Penrhyn are concerned their most valuable plant is under threat from the coconut rhinoceros beetle (left).  But an insect specialist from the government's Agriculture Ministry says he's found no evidence of the pest.  Adult beetles burrow into the bases of palm fronds and the holes they create also allow other bugs and funghi to damage the tree which could eventually die.  The coconut palms produce rito (fibre) for weaving hats, fans and earrings, generating income for Penrhyn islanders. The tree is also a food source.
Charlie Quarter
A 67 year old man has found his mother's grave after returning to the now unihabited island of Manuae where he grew up.   Charlie Quarter, who now live in Australia, left the island when he was six after his mother died of tuberculosis. Skipper Quinton Schofield from 'WetnWild' agreed to take Charlie and a friend the 100kms from Aitutaki to Manuae.  HIs friend camped on the island for six months in 1985 and remembered the location of the small burial ground with seven graves.  Charlie said he always knew he's see his mother again and  had to do the trip for her.
MV Moana Nui
A big salvage operation is underwayto remove a cargo ship which ran aground on the reef off remote Nassau two and a half years ago.  A 353 tonne landing craft from Fiji is being used to upright the MV Moana Nui (right) and lock her to the reef before work begins to pump out the water inside. The plan is to refloat the vessel and then tow her out into the ocean to be sunk. The work is costing NZ$750,000.
Cook Islands Pride launch
Atiiu, Mauke and Mitiaro have rejected a government request to allow commercial fishing within 50 miles of their islands where it's currently banned by law.  'Ocean Fresh' want the govenrment to liff the ban because they haven't got blast freezers on their vessels and say they need to fish closer to Rarotonga to enable quicker sales.  But leaders from the three islands say the exclusion zone is important to protect the ocean and they fear that allowing one company to fish within it will mean others will want to as well, impacting local fishermen.
Anti chemical group protestors in Avarua
A petition with more than 1500 signatures has been delivered to MPs calling for a halt to the addition of chlorine to Rarotonga's water supply.  Protestors from anti-chemical group Te Vai Ora Maori took to the streets of Avarua demanding their voices are heard.  They want a trial of non-chemical based solutions such as UV filters instead.  But the water agency say they're not good enough to solve the island's "third world water quality".
MPS  AGREE UNANIMOUSLY TO PROLONG SAME-SEX BAN
Tourism leaders fear impact to peak season visitor numbers

MPs have ignored worldwide threats of a tourism boycott and agreed unanimously to keep the law criminalising homosexuality for at least six more months. A select committee of MPs looking into the new Crimes Bill have been given that extra time to report back on their recommendation which could mean up to seven years in prison for same sex couples.  Sue Fletcher-Vea, president of Cook Islands Tourism Industry Council said they were "disappointed" and it could impact on visitor numbers at the busiest time of the year.  Opposition to reinstating prison sentences is strongest in New Zealand,which accounts for 70% of tourists to the Islands, where government MP Louisa Wall and other MPs signed a petition against criminalisation in Cook Islands. 

Left: Co-president Val Wichman with Lady Tuaine Marsters (right) at the launch of the Cook Islands Pride campaign.  Lady Marsters, wife of the Queen's Representativehas asked the Parliamentary committee of MPs headed by Elikana to "have the heart to understand the rights of the LGBT+ community as citizens of the country".

MIss Cook Islands at Miss World 2019
Tajiya Sahay from Mitiaro - the current Miss Cook Islands -  has beaten more than 100 contestants from around the world to 6th place in the 2019 Miss World contest. It's the best result the Islands has ever achieved. She was also crowned Miss Oceania at the  event in London. The 26 year old said "The people of the Cook Islands have all been there on the journey with me, supporting, loving, caring, building our community to get me here. "  Holding aloft a Cook Islands flag she thanked all her supporters. "I could not be more appreciative. Meitaki ma'ata!"
Photo: @misscookislands Facebook page


The Cook Islands has now been designated a 'developed nation' after six years of economic growth driven by tourism. It's means it will no longer qualify for some overseas aid and the Finance Minister, Mark Brown says the country will need to be smart about filling the gap left by departing donors.  He believes the way forward is " in the sustainable and innovative use of ocean resources and ocean technology."  The country is the first small nation in the region to be upgraded in this way by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.  Brown (right) thinks it will also mean more opportunities, particularly for young people. Photo: Cook Islands Government
Finance Minister, Mark Brown