Confirmation of the renewal comes at a time when a Commonwealth Secretariat official is in the country to see how well the local programme is going and to get a wider overview of its context within the wider Cook Islands economy.
Joel Burman (Programme Officer, Governance and Institutional Development Division, Commonwealth Secretariat) told Cook Islands News that the Secretariat sees its role as working with the governments of developing countries to help them advance their local aspirations.
“We do not set the agenda; nor the timeframes – here in the Cook Islands, as elsewhere; that is the role of the Government. Our involvement is simply to provide technical assistance that can help each project succeed.”
This is his second visit to Rarotonga and he said such visits provide an opportunity to get an overview only possible by face-to-face meetings as a complement to the written reports he receives in London.
Burman is visiting to meet with key national stakeholders, in part to review the effectiveness of the funding and technical assistance provided by Commonwealth Secretariat to the Cook Islands Government. This support has been given in the form of providing in-country technical assistance through expert Natural Resource Advisor, Darryl Thorburn.
Thorburn has been serving in the SBM Authority since early 2012. His work is to assist in the steady development progress of the Cook Islands Seabed Minerals sector. Seabed Minerals development remains a key priority of Government, since the Seabed Minerals Act was passed by the previous Government in 2009.
On day one of his visit, Burman met with Minister Brown who indicated that the steady development of our national SBM sector, with this generous support from Commonwealth Secretariat, is proceeding very well, and in line with Commonwealth Secretariat, external donor and the Government’s expectations.
As part of this visit, Burman has a busy schedule of relevant stakeholder meetings with MFEM, MFAI, BTIB, NES, PSC, CIIC, CLO, NZHC and NGOs to determine:
- Perceptions of the progress of development of potential SBM activities in the Cook Islands;
- The anticipated role/impact of potential SBM activities generally within the Cook Islands from their respective positions and operations;
- Integrating assistance with development partners
- Progress made with the relevant SBM legal, technical, economic, social and environmental requirements and assessments
- The need for the “meshing” of potential SBM activities with other marine activities in our EEZ.
- Any developmental needs that are not presently being met either by domestic or external partner resources,
What developmental priorities for Cook Islands entities may exist now and in the future.