PM accessed loan, not grant

Tuesday May 27, 2014 Published in Letters to the Editor
Prime Minister Henry Puna was not aware of a pearl farming loan evolving into a grant for a farm he co-owns with his wife, says the PM's advisor Trevor Pitt. 14033106 Prime Minister Henry Puna was not aware of a pearl farming loan evolving into a grant for a farm he co-owns with his wife, says the PM's advisor Trevor Pitt. 14033106

Dear Editor, The Prime Minister is disappointed by misleading headlines and stories in the Cook Islands News over his pearl farm operation.

The Prime Minister had not received a pearl grant but was part of the Manihiki farmers’ group, which had access to loan funding, three years ago. In January 2011, farm owners expressed a need for immediate help with new floats. As one of the larger farm owners, the PM was part of the collective under that original loan arrangement for emergency floats.

The PM has not been engaged in any pearl funding process or been aware of the loan arrangement evolving into a grant, two years later. He has not dealt with the Cook Islands Pearl Authority about farming or been involved with CIPA’s role in the funding arrangements.

Two weeks ago at the Pearl Forum in Manihiki, the PM was made aware of money owing when an invoice was produced by CIPA. The Pearl Authority and MFEM’s Development Coodination Division only reconciled the funding payments two weeks ago and many farmers have only recently been made aware of the outstanding monies.

The PM left work on his farm at the end of 2010 having won the General Election and assuming the Prime Ministership. One person was left to oversee it up until about 20 months ago when that person left Manihiki. The farm exists. There are shells on lines in the lagoon. The PM has not been actively farming since becoming PM.

Trevor Pitt

Prime Minister’s Office

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