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The Cook Islands are hoping to host the world's largest festival of Pacific arts in 2032.

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Cook Islands bid to host future Festpac, clarifies ‘embarrassing’ stranded reports

The Cook Islands delegation has returned from Hawai’i, and sets the record straight on comments that escalated to national news.

Planning is underway to bring the world's largest festival of Pacific Arts back to the southern hemisphere.

The 13th Festival of Pacific Arts and Culture, or Festpac, has just wrapped in Hawai'i, and Pacific nations are vying to be the next host of the global event, held every four years.

Council for Pacific Arts and Culture chair Emile Kairua said the Cook Islands made a strong case to host the 15th Festpac in 2032, but there’s competition.

“There's four countries that's running for that opportunity: Cooks Islands, Fiji, Samoa and Tahiti.

“New Caledonia is hosting the 2028 [festival], but in light of the civil unrest that's going on in that country, Samoa have put their hands up to be the standby.”

Cook Islands perform at the Festpac opening ceremony in Hawai'i. Photo/PMN News/Khalia Strong

Speaking to Susnation Seta on PMN Cook Islands, Kairua said the Cook Islands is not in a position to be a back-up venue for 2028, but having eight years to prepare for the following festival is ideal.

“The Cook Islands is the chair of the Council of Pacific Arts and Culture, and at the moment we are still chairing the Festpac working group committee, so we have some influence in how this festival is going to be hosted in the coming years.”

If accepted, it will be 40 years since the last time the Cook Islands hosted Festpac, in 1992.

Not stranded

As the lead for the Cook Islands delegation to Festpac 2024, Kairua also wanted to clear up false reports that they were stranded and short for cash in Hawai'i.

“It sort of put a wee bit of a tarnish on what was otherwise an amazing experience in Hawai’i.

“While I feel the intentions of the people that said these things, their heart was in the right place, it was totally done the wrong way.”

Local news reported the issue without official comment from the Cook Islands delegation in Hawai'i. Photo/Youtube screenshot

Kairua said the plan was always for some of the group to stay longer due to personal preferences and limited flight availability, and reports they were stranded and had no money were completely out of context.

“I had suggested to the team that they might want to go in and do the Pearl Harbor tour, you might want to go jet skis or get on the lagoon and do some cruising and these are the costs.

“So someone had gone and reported that they needed money, but the money that the guys were looking for was to do all these excursions.”

These comments were picked up by local media following a press release titled "Urgent Appeal for Assistance for Cook Islands Delegation Stranded in Oahu".

Island News reported members of the group were unable to get home and didn't have money for basic needs, leading to local fundraising efforts by the Makaha Learning Center.

The Makaha Learning Center took the fundraiser setup down after further clarification. Photo/Facebook

Kairua said this led to some awkward situations for the remaining delegates.

“When someone showed me the Facebook posts of an organization in Hawaii setting up a Givealittle page to raise funds, believe it or not, the guys were sitting inside McDonald's having everything you can think of, that's hardly a picture of someone being stranded in Hawai’i.

"We had people coming up to me on the road as we were walking around shopping … and saying, ‘oh, we're so sorry that you guys are stranded, here's some money’, that got embarrassing for us.”

Kairua said it all boils down to a misunderstanding.

“We had money that we had put aside, that we had budgeted for, that we had fundraised, that we were going to give to the team anyway, so that's where this whole story came from.”

Island Media has published a follow up article, but no official correction or apology has been issued.

Watch the full interview with Emile Kairua on PMN Cooks: