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Manukau trade delegation to Cook Islands

Media release
20 September 2005

Mayor pleased with Manukau trade delegation to Cook Islands

Manukau Mayor Sir Barry Curtis is delighted with the outcome of the Manukau trade delegation he led to the Cook Islands from September 11-17.

The delegation included fourteen representatives from businesses in Manukau eager to boost bilateral trade, including Gilbert Ullrich, executive director of Ullrich Aluminium, and chairman of the recently-formed NZ Pacific Business Council.

Manukau has a large Pacific population, including many Cook Islands residents. However there is currently only limited trade between New Zealand and the Pacific nation, and Sir Barry says there’s tremendous potential for growth. Last year New Zealand exported goods worth $74 million to the Cook Islands and our imports were worth just $1.9 million.

The delegation visited both Rarotonga and Aitutaki and met with the Cook Islands’ Prime Minister, Cabinet Ministers, senior officials, business leaders and visited many business locations.

Sir Barry says it is early days yet but a great many new business contacts were established, and he was able to open doors at the highest level in government and the private sector, to enable the business people on the delegation to meet the key decision makers.

“The relationships we’ve begun and the connections made have set the groundwork. Now our local business people will follow through with the next stage of the process.”

Sir Barry says he saw opportunities for assisting the Cooks help export more products in New Zealand, as well as vice versa. “There isn’t a lot of marketing expertise there and we can assist them with this vital business skill. You can have a fantastic product but it’s pointless if you don’t know how to sell or package it properly.”

The delegation took part in a Trade Show which Sir Barry says was a resounding success. Hundreds of people from throughout Rarotonga and other islands attended the two-day show.

He says there is tremendous opportunity for the Cooks to develop the visitor potential of the northern island of Aitutaki. “It’s the eighth wonder of the world - incredibly beautiful. And it should stay that way. We can help with planning tourism development including assisting to develop a 20 year strategic plan for the Islands, as well as planning an appropriate sewage treatment system.

“Once they start gearing up their local economy to take advantage of new opportunities, there will be environmental and other planning issues they will need to deal with. Manukau can help in those matters because we’ve had a lot of experience with growth issues here, having been the fastest growing New Zealand city for many years.

“But apart from the business opportunities, I believe there will be other positive spin off such as closer links with our Council, and other institutions in Manukau such as the Manukau Institute of Technology.”

Five years ago Sir Barry signed a memorandum of co-operation with the Cooks’ Government which has subsequently led to six educational scholarships being established to enable six Cook Island students to study trade-related subjects at MIT. He says such initiatives contribute to the economic development of the Cook Islands over the long term and he would like to see more established.

This week Sir Barry leads a trade delegation to Samoa, and will sign a memorandum of co-operation with the Government of Samoa.

Sir Barry says economic development worldwide is being driven by cities and regions or even small governments, rather than on a national basis, as in the past.

“Manukau has for some time been forging close business and economic links with selected cities overseas where is there is a natural synergy, such as high growth rates, and where there is room for mutual benefit. I see the development of closer links with the Cook Islands as part of that process.”

Ends

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