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Cook Islands’ name and flag may be ‘put to people’s choice’

Cooks Islands PM sat down with PMN's Faama Viliamu on a range of topics including whether the country's flag should change.

Khalia Strong
Khalia Strong
16 January 2024, 1:35pm
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The Cook Islands could be gearing up for a name change, as the prime minister considers what might be on the cards in the next 12 months.

Cook Islands Prime Minister Mark Brown says changes to the flag could also be considered, but will need the public's sign off.

“This was flagged at the recent announcement of the pardon of our first premier, Albert Henry, and a suggestion that we may want to either reconsider our old flag and go back to that, or maybe something new, but again, that will be something that’ll be put to the test and put to people’s choices, probably through a referendum.”

The Cook Islands has had a range of different flag since the 1800s. Photo/Wikipedia

Speaking to PMN Niue host Faama Viliamu, Brown says this month also marks a significant milestone for the Rarotonga International Airport.

“On the 29th of January is the 50th anniversary of the opening of our International Airport, and that was opened in 1974 by Queen Elizabeth II.


“So to commemorate, we’ll be having a ceremony which will be out on the tarmac of the airport, and there’ll be a week of activities leading up to it, which includes opening up the runway so people can either cycle or drive down the runway, and there’ll be organised tours by airport staff as well.”

Reshaping the Pacific Islands Forum for the future

Later this year, Brown will cede the Pacific Islands chairperson role to the Prime Minister of Tonga, who will be hosting this year’s forum in August.

Brown has a lot to do in his final months in the job, normalising the terms for the Forum’s achievements and reinstating the leaders meetings to precede key United Nations events. He admits it’s been a “very hectic time for the Forum itself”.

“There is currently a review of the regional architecture of the Pacific Island Forum so internally, there’s a lot of work being done withing the structure of our forum to make sure that it fits the new, modern age that we live in now, and it is not set back in the time of the 70s when the Forum was first established.”

Brown takes pride in projects that have been achieved under his watch such as the Pacific Resilience Facility, a regional fund to building community preparedness against the impacts of climate change, and issue grants quickly when disasters arrive.

“This is is a facility that the Pacific island leaders established themselves to try and provide a facility for donors to put funding into, or for those carbon emitting countries to put funds into, to help countries like us meet the impacts of climate change.

“So I'm really pleased with those outcomes from the last Forum leaders meeting, and we'd like to see continuation of contributions to this particular fund to hit our target of a half a billion dollars to help Pacific countries in need.”

Local investment

Back home, Brown wants to use the second half of his government term to finish upgrading roads around Rarotonga, and also improving roading on the outer islands and sealing Mangaia Airport.

“We’re looking make the Northern Group Islands more accessible, not just to our local people, but also to any visitors who want to come through here.”