Prime Minister’s Speech Notes
Kia orana koutou katoa,
Welcome to Queen’s Representative, Traditional Leaders, Members of Parliament, contractors, officials and guests, etc.
This year we celebrate the 30-year anniversary of the foundation stones that led to the Sir Geoffrey Henry National Culture Centre (Te Puna Korero). Cabinet approved the complex design in November 1990. Construction work commenced in September 1991 and was completed in 1992. Former Prime Minister Sir Geoffrey Henry on the officially opened the complex on 14th October 1992.
At the traditional ceremony, Sir Geoffrey was joined by Makea Karika Margaret Ariki, and Makea Nui Teremoana Ariki.
Thirty years ago, the closest thing we had to a national event centre was the Constitution Park, which whilst it served a purpose when it was conceived, could not really be compared to something of this size, scale, and beauty.
To share with you all some history, Te Puna Korero origins date back to our first Prime Minister, Albert Henry, he developed this idea and passed this to his nephew Sir Geoffrey Henry. Sir Geoffrey saw this idea through from construction to completion in 1992. Te Puna Korero was more than the construction of a building. It was to ensure the continuation of cultural development of the Cook Islands.
At the same time of the opening of Te Puna Korero, the Tauranga Vananga, the Ministry of Culture, was formally established. The facility prompted mixed emotions 30 years ago, there were supporters and there were sceptics. The sceptics thought this project would be a white elephant, would hardly be used and not filled to capacity. This has been far from the case.
This facility has over the last 30 years been used for an array of events, from Te Maeva Nui and constitution celebrations, international sporting events, conferences like Pacific Leaders Forums and school events. Miss Cook Islands pageants have been hosted here and so too has Hilary Clinton and a plethora of other foreign leaders and diplomats, the list goes on.
The concept of Te Puna Korero is a representation of a double hull vaka. The two buildings to the left and right are the ama and Te Are Karioi Nui is the kiato.
Not only has Te Are Karioi Nui been the kiato of the vaka, it has provided impetus to our many vaka, our many hostels, that domicile this area.
The 4 components to our Puna Korero are – the Runanga Pakau (National Museum), Runanga Puka (National Library), Runanga Akamou Korero (National Archive), and this, the Are Karioi Nui (National Auditorium).
The construction was complex. The site required extensive site preparation, before construction. This involved raising the land contour by several meters. The project cost about $15m, funded in large by way of a loan from the Government of Nauru, on favourable terms.
The lead contractor for the project was Mainline Brown, and the project was managed by the Public Works Department. I want to acknowledge all people involved in the original build, including Bill Doherty, who is here today and who played an essential role in this project at that time, and has been involved with countless strategic infrastructure projects for the country.
It goes without saying that this building is a national icon, and she was perhaps a bit overdue for some careful love and attention by way of the renovation work that has been taking place these past 11 months.
At a cost of $1.6 million, these were the first major renovations that have been done here since the Auditorium first opened back in 1992.
We have revitalised her beauty, by refurbishing steelwork, replacing her roof, lighting, frames, window louvres, restoring and repainting the terraced seating, and other addition renovation work.
And as I look around here today, it’s clear to me that this was a job well done –and a job which will extend the life of this facility for the next 30 years and beyond, and, will enable our Cook Islands people to celebrate our culture, our language, our being, our essence.
Before I call on Cook Islands Investment Corporation chairman Mr Michael Henry to say a few more words, I would just like to thank him and all of his staff, our Ministry of Culture, Raro Weld and the many local contractors and others who have been working so tirelessly since June last year to bring new life back to this building that is of such national importance to all Cook Islanders.
Thank you, and Kia Orana e Kia Manuia.