Six years and out for expat workers’

Tuesday May 26, 2020 Written by Published in Economy
Kairangi Samuela. 18081702 Kairangi Samuela. 18081702

New law would set a time limit on how long foreign nationals can stay and work in Cook Islands.

Expat workers’ stay in Cook Islands is to be capped at six years.

Principal immigration officer Kairangi Samuela said the time-limit would be part of regulation to complement the new Immigration Bill.


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The plan has been met with reservations from the Private Sector Taskforce and expat workers.

Taskforce chairman Fletcher Melvin said the proposed law defeated their emphasis of “keeping good people who contribute to their businesses and the economy”.

Employers invested a lot of time and resources on capable expat workers, he said, with a view to keep them employed for the long term.

“You want to keep people that are good for your business and Cook Islands. If they were not good for our businesses, they wouldn’t be here for that long anyway. It’s bit of a burden to send them back because they have established themselves here.”

Lai Gukisuva of the Cook Islands Fijian Association said they also had reservations about this proposed legislation. The association would be making a submission when it would be put up for public consultation.

According to Immigration, the proposed law is to ensure expat workers do not lose contact with their roots.

Samuela said the regulations would be reviewed by Cabinet once the Immigration Bill had been approved by Parliament.

The select committee chaired by Internal Affairs minister Mac Mokoroa is considering at the Bill, which will undergo public consultation starting this evening at Sinai Hall. 

Samuela said once the draft regulations were complete, they would also be distributed for public consultation. 

“There will be a transition process once the Bill has been passed to nut out how these provisions will affect those who are already here and the implications for them.

The provision for a cap on foreign workers was first introduced in a 2003 report on the review of immigration policy.

The report conducted by then Immigration Advisory Committee chaired by Te Tika Mataiapo recommended the minister responsible be empowered to grant work permits for a term of up to three years.

The committee also recommended the minister be barred from being able to extend the cumulative time for work permits beyond six years except for those who are married to a Cook Islander or the person holds a special needed skill cannot be suitably replaced by a local.

Minister Mac Mokoroa said consultations on this Bill had been ongoing since 2003. In 2016, Immigration picked it up again and conducted a wide and extensive range of consultations to come with a revised Bill.

The select committee met with a number of stakeholders, he said, some of whom had pointed some issues with the Bill.

“A classic example is the Chamber of Commerce who pointed out the rule which allows any person to stay for maximum of six years.

“If you are a caregiver and you are employed here, it will take you probably four to five years to get accustomed and then probably on your sixth year is when you actually get used to being with the person you are looking after.”

Mokoroa said they would be holding consultation in the three vaka on Rarotonga, followed by Zoom video sessions with people from the outer islands. They would also accept written submissions, he said.

The select committee has until September 20 to report back to Parliament.


  • Comment Link Margaret Aue Saturday, 30 May 2020 07:28 posted by Margaret Aue

    1. Auraka e akatika i tetai tika'anga noo roa (PR) ki tetai porena ki roto i to tatou basileia, me kare e akono/akaronga i te ture enua,
    Mei tera te tu te rave nei ratou i tetai au kimikimi anga puapinga under the table, kare i na roto i te proper channel, kua akakite ia auraka e rave akaou, kare rai e akarongo.
    2. Te noo nei tetai au porena kua akaipoipo ki ta tatou anau kare ra to ratou immigration fee i up to date no te tutaki anga, akara ia e kotou ma, akaue ia kia tutaki i to ratou permit
    3. E au porena tetai kua tu i te PR e te NZ Citizenship, kare ra e noo akaou ana ki konei, kua teke ki overseas noo ei e tona ngutuare tangata
    4. Te noo nei tetai au porena i konei, tomo mai ki roto i to tatou basileira on visitors permit e oti kare I aravei i te immigration no te tika' anga kia noo akaou mai no tetai tuatau, akaue ia kia tutaki i te outstanding, kua pou oki te 2 years i te noo akapenei anga kare oki ratou e mataku ana, auraka akatika kia extend i to ratou tika'anga noo mai, e taringa turi tikai, akaoki ki to ratou enua.
    5. Auraka e oake i tetai tika'anga (PR) ki tetai contract worker, te vai nei tetai e akateitei, akatangata i roto i te community, akatere mai ia matou, kia riro nate aronga mana, RCA, and the people living around them e oronga i tetai tika'anga noo roa ki konei.

  • Comment Link Sharon Thursday, 28 May 2020 23:20 posted by Sharon

    If no one else is going to say it I will. This is racism. There have been a lot of negative changes since this woman has taken over. Racist and dangerous with no empathy. Also inconsistent in her policies and judgements.

  • Comment Link Hermien Tuesday, 26 May 2020 18:07 posted by Hermien

    Very weird..people can decide themselves on whether or not to lose contact "with their roots" should New Zealand/Australia send back all the cook islanders now?? That would cause an uproar within the Cook Islands itself as they depend on money from family overseas so it's okay for Cook Islanders to leave and send money but not okay for other foreign nationals to make a life on the CI?
    And what about the fact there are diversity couples which is something not even accepted by law in the Cook Islands...if one of them is a cook islander they have to leave??
    And about how many people are they actually talking here? They are not getting handouts so obviously are sustaining themselves and the local economy?

  • Comment Link Tony Heays Tuesday, 26 May 2020 11:23 posted by Tony Heays

    Surely it's up to the individual whether or not they choose to "lose contact with their roots" What a stupid statement.

  • Comment Link Ann Abel Tuesday, 26 May 2020 09:46 posted by Ann Abel

    This sounds a bit one-sided, please get feed back from Employers as after 6years the worker has become experienced in Thier line of work. When they get sent home someone else has to be trained to do that work.

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