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Salient. Victoria University of Wellington Students' Newspaper. Volume 31, Number 12 June 11, 1968

Cooks Fear Tourism

page 2

Cooks Fear Tourism

"The one thing which holds the Cook Islands political system as is, is the charisma of one man— Albert Henry," said Mr Anthony Haas to a meeting at Victoria last week.

"The election did not rest on important issues such as land tenure, the new airport, or the social effects of tourism, but on Albert Henry personally.

"It was either 'We like Albert Henry' or 'We don't like Albert Henry',"

Describing Cook Islands politics on the basis of his recent trip there to study the election and the political situation, Mr Haas, a political Science Honours student said:

"Fear of the social effects of tourism is in the minds, but not on the lips, of many important people in the Cooks.

"The Prime Minister, Albert Henry, believes the economic benefits will outweigh the social cost.

"Certain leaders are also ready to forego their uneasiness publicly, to get financial benefits. This is a field which should be very closely studied."

"We don't want the Cooks to become like Tahiti" was a frequent comment, but Albert Henry told me it was perfectly all right in Tahiti, further playing down the social consequences.

"The Cooks want what they call 'controlled tourism'," said Mr Haas, "but it is not clear how this will work "

"Albert Henry feared in 1961 for the social effects, but now he has changed his mind. He seems to still be scared of the effect, but he also wants to profit from tourism and seems to be ready to go ahead and hope to God."

"There are fears also for the female teenage population," he said: "The Cook Island Government hopes to entice older people to go to the Cooks as tourists."

Tourism would also aggravate the shortage of labour which is already considerable because of the high level of migration.

There are about 20,000 Cook Islanders in the Cooks, and 10,000 (through both migration and the high reproductive rate) in New Zealand.

"The young people are dissatisfied with the sober life in the Cooks," said Mr Haas. "They are attracted by the so called bright lights of Auckland, where there are now 8000."

Tourism to the Cooks, and perhaps migration to New Zealand, could be greatly accelerated when the $6.3 million New Zealand financed jet airport is completed, he said.

"Within about 10 years New Zealand will have regained the capital cost of the airport and will make about $2 million profit a year on it, and this was the attraction for New Zealand as a long-term investment.

"If it comes there will be regular aircraft in and out," he said.

"This may lead to the opening up of large scale airfreighting.

"For instance, fresh fruit and flowers could form the basis of a very big trade with Auckland and it could develop and provide.good profits.

"I hope that all the entrepreneurs will not be New Zealanders, but I suspect this will be so."

Tony Haas, who recently studied the Cook Island election and political situation.

Tony Haas, who recently studied the Cook Island election and political situation.