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Land Tenure in the Cook Islands


page v


The authors of development programmes in the Pacific area today are more aware than their colonial predecessors of the significance of ‘custom’ as a factor to be reckoned with in the accomplishment of their objectives; an importance which remains regardless of whether custom is considered a helpful medium for facilitating the introduction of new ideas and techniques or an obstacle to innovation which has to be either overcome or circumvented.

For the most part, however, the acceptance of such a viewpoint has been in principle rather than in practice; and it is seldom indeed that the blue-prints of planning agencies have attempted to define the special segments of custom likely to affect the achievement of their aims, and even more seldom that detailed research has been undertaken to determine their precise nature.

The objective of this study is to examine a specific aspect of custom in a particular area: firstly, to determine its character and constituent traits in the precontact era; secondly, to identify and describe such modifications as were brought about by three generations of contact with European culture; and lastly, to describe and analyze the effects of modern administrative policies which are themselves essentially based on assumptions concerning such custom.