Puna pearl grant clarification

Tuesday May 27, 2014 Published in Letters to the Editor
George Ellis says Prime Minister Henry Puna did not in fact receive an aid grant for his pearl farm - his wife Akaiti received it instead. 14040213 George Ellis says Prime Minister Henry Puna did not in fact receive an aid grant for his pearl farm - his wife Akaiti received it instead. 14040213

Dear Editor, Yesterday’s lead story in your paper stated that the PM received a loan of $18,394 from the Cook Islands Pearl Authority (CIPA) in early 2011 to purchase 1000 emergency floats (later reduced to $17,823 for 31 defective floats).

It further states this was later converted to an 80 percent grant under  the revised Grant Funding Arrangement signed in 2013 between the NZ and Cook Islands Governments for the revitalisation of the pearl industry, and with the PM owing the 20 percent balance of the loan.

The story also reported that the information was provided by myself, which was correct.

However, since the publication of the story, I have now discovered a significant error of fact in the information I provided to your reporter and therefore wish to have this error corrected publicly.

The detail of the amounts of the loan and grant which I provided were correct. However, I was mistaken in naming the Prime Minister or Henry Puna as the borrower for the above loan made in April 2011 when in actual fact the borrower was Akaiti Puna and not the Prime Minister or the company.

Cook Islands Pearl Authority is happy to provide a copy of this loan agreement to Cook Islands News to sight and verify if it so wishes. I can also verify that from 2006 to now, CIPA has always had dealt with Akaiti Puna in her capacity as farm manager regarding all farm business and not with Henry Puna.

In light of the above, I unreservedly apologise to Prime Minister Henry Puna for inadvertently providing incorrect information to Cook Islands News which would induce readers to believe that the Prime Minister received a floats loan from CIPA and later became a beneficiary under the New Zealand Aid pearl farming project.

George Ellis

Chief Executive Officer

Cook Islands Pearl Authority  

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