New Zealand Pacific Business Council (NZPBC), lead a 5 organisation strong delegation to the Cook Islands to explore bilateral trade opportunities in the private and government sectors.

Cook Islands like all countries has its own set of unique challenges and opportunities. The main revenue stream is based around its thriving tourism sector. Tourism growth has been substantial; 130,000 arrivals in 2014 to 175,000 arrivals in 2017, effectively meaning that the Cook Islands has reached capacity. Capacity constraints are evident in the amount and quality of rooms available and infrastructure challenges such as roading, water/waste water supplies and electricity network being put under pressure. International funders have risen to the challenge with a number of initiatives underway to begin to address the infrastructure issues. During our visit we visited the Te Mato Vai Project hosted by James Taylor, Project Manager – McConnell Dowell; this project is aimed at securing a reliable and quality water supply by building catchment reservoirs in the upper tributaries of Rarotonga.

There is no freehold land in the Cook Islands and all hotels set on leasehold land which has a maximum 60 year lease. Several hotels are nearing the end of their lease term, with renewal of these leases uncertain it means they will struggle to justify reinvestment in their facilities. However during our visit we evidenced a different ownership approach which had been developed to continue the growth and reinvestment into one of the premier hotels in Rarotonga.

Capital investment in the Cook Islands is hampered by relatively high interest rates for commercial developments in the vicinity of 8-12% for loans.

However with increased tourism market there has been a growth in SME’s and we toured several of these during our visit:

  • Te Ara Museum of Cultural Enterprise – Stanley Wolfgram
  • Pacific Diving – Stephen Lyons
  • FAVE Design – Ana File-Heather

 

Government of the Cook Islands re-established parliament on first day of our mission after having a hung parliament for several weeks following elections earlier this year. In general the Cook Islands are known for having a relatively stable government. The Government of the Cook Islands is showing financial prudence by strictly controlling its level of debt and maintaining it around a 30-35% ratio.

The business mission was addressed by the Business Trade Investment Board (BTIB), an agency responsible for the promotion of trade, investment and business in the Cook Islands, the promotion and monitoring of foreign investments and to encourage the participation of Cook Islanders in trade investment and business.

The BTIB is the first stop if you want to look at establishing a business in the Cook Islands with a mandate to;

  • Encourage and facilitate the participation of Cook Islands in investment and in the ownership, management and control of investment and business.
  • Promote, coordinate and facilitate trade to, from and within the Cook Islands.
  • Promote, foster and assist the establishment of investment in the Cook Islands
  • Regulate, monitor and control the direction of foreign investment in the Cook Islands.

 

The NZPBC Business Mission was warmly welcome and supported by the New Zealand High Commission (NZHC) and Cook Islands Chamber of Commerce (CICC) and we would like to extend a special thank you to these organisations.

In summary the business mission examine the following areas of:

  • How to do business in the Cook Islands
  • Government’s role
  • Infrastructure opportunities
  • Tourism Sector

There was plenty of opportunity to network and engage in dialogue, with the NZHC hosting a welcome reception and the Cook Islands Chamber of Commerce in conjunction with NZPBC hosting a cocktail evening.

A number of delegation members took the opportunity to arrange one on one visits facilitated by NZPBC and the Cook Islands Chamber of Commerce.

Should you be looking at or considering doing business in the Cook Islands I welcome you to reach out to the NZPBC whose members have extensive experience in Cook Islands and can help facilitate contacts with the various agencies in the Cook Islands.

Finally, I would like to extend a large thank you to all those that were on the delegation and supported this business mission during its time in the Cook Islands.

Kind Regards | Ngā mihi
Devin Brown