A new age is ushered in, people die, people forget and a new nation rises which is a mix of the old and the new. The influx of foreign workers over the last few years is escalating and is on an upwards trend if local Immigration stats is anything to go by and as more locals leave, more foreigners arrive to fill the void. What does that mean for the political landscape?
It could well mean the rise of a locally based but foreign membership political power block that will make its presence felt in the next 10 to 25 years or sooner as more foreign workers arrive, become eligible for PR status or are NZ passport holders and move and reside in electorates that up until this time have been the sole province of locals. Why? The locals are leaving in droves and foreign workers are moving in. They are moving in such numbers that eventually they will gain PR status and be eligible to vote and those votes will support or sink aspiring local politicians. The landscape is shifting and if you keep your head stuck in the sand like an ostrich, when you do surface, it will be too late as Teina Duarte becomes the first Cook Islands Prime Minister of Filipino birth in 2030. He/She will head a political party that may be made up of Canadian, USA, Filipinos, Indonesians, Fijians, Solomon Islanders, Vanuatuans, NZ Maori, Cook Islanders and China. It is only a matter of time given the shift that will occur in the political landscape. If political reform does eventuate, this will accelerate the rise of this political party.
When locals decide that they will hold onto the status quo no matter what, they are on a hiding to nothing as their local voting numbers decrease and the foreigners increase. It’s a no brainer really and any aspiring politicians out there need to get their house in order now. There will certainly come a time when we will have a China town, a little Manilla, a down town Suva and an up market Otara, it’s only a matter of when not if.
Is this a good thing or not? Well let’s play out this scenario and assume that it is for the good. For a start we will soon be welcoming Teariki Matangaro Duarte and his sister Vaine Purotu Duarte into our schools because their mother/father is a Cook Islander and of course dad/mum is from Manilla in the Philippines.
This mixing of the races will accelerate as we come to grips with a burgeoning multi-cultural nation and the lines will become blurred as to what constitutes a Cook Islander. The influence of these foreigners is already affecting how and what we eat and where we eat now. The language of these foreigners pervades our very lives and the influence of cooking from these foreign lands cannot be underestimated as our palates become more sophisticated. They will soon become a force to be reckoned with and the beauty of it all is that they will be able to build their mosques, their temples and their churches as their influence gains traction without the prejudices of this generation of locals.
They will bring their own cultural differences and very soon we will have a hybrid culture not based solely on a western ideology but one based on a unique foreign/Cook Islands mix. It may not be such a bad thing given that the present Cook Islands way of doing things is based on a Christian ethic which is full of hypocrisy, double standards and an “I didn’t do it” mentality. For the bad side, it may well accelerate the downfall of the Cook Islands culture as we know it. As currently there is a definite apathy to a cultural renaissance, very little cultural promotion in our education system and before you start on me, Ura and Turou and the House of Ariki is not culture. It is at best entertainment and a welfare beneficiary system of traditional leaders, it is not the sum of who we are. It is the sum of what we have become for the tourism industry and what we gave up for political expediency in 1966.
So where does that leave us then? It leaves us battling with a whole host of issues and challenges as we head into the next 25 years. The influence of China in the South Pacific will continue to accelerate as our traditional NZ, Aus and USA influences will be playing a catch up game. They will want to treat with us, but under some (to us) fairly strict guidelines, but not enough to have us running off to the Chinese, cap in hand. It will be a delicate balancing act of what they can give us as to what we expect and then how this can obviate Chinese influence. Remember China have generational plans, we on the other hand have a narrow perspective and China knows that every few years politicians come and go. They on the other hand can outwait any NZ, Aus or USA influence. They don’t care, they can just wait it out and continue to chip away until they have met their desired plans. This is the dilemma, challenge and opportunity that the Cook Islands will be facing in the coming years how to get what they want/need and how not to get off side with their traditional Aid/Ally partners as well as how to leverage with China being used as the bogey man.
` The Unionist
(Name and address supplied)