The event was hosted by the Cook Islands Ta’okotai’anga Charitable Trust trading as Cook Islands Development Agency New Zealand (CIDANZ) in association with the Cook Islands NZ Sports, Church & Culture Federation and in partnership with Pasifika Futures.
Dr Kiki Maoate, Chair of Pasifika Futures Board, delivered the keynote address, honouring the Cook Island South Auckland community and in particular CIDANZ for commemorating Cook Islands independence anniversary, and showcasing the next 50 years.
Dr Maoate’s message struck a chord about community development in the sense of education.
“You don’t learn the ups and downs of your community in a classroom. We have 13 Cook Island groups who want to do their own thing and they should be able to. It’s not up to us to deny our cultural values but resolved our cultural differences to bring us together as one people. It’s like the Pacific; we say we are Pacific Islanders but there are 24 Pacific Island countries. We need to acknowledge our differences.”
The actual independence celebration, which has been held in August was remarked with a CIDANZ oneCOOPERATIVE series of events including the public opening of the oneCOMMUNITY S.H.E.D (Social Human Economic Development) Facility as a support service to empower Cook Islands families to take control of their own futures through creating and leading Cook Islands made enterprises.
The dinner reception was enjoyed by hundreds of high-profile guests including the Deputy Prime Minister of the Cook Islands Hon Teariki Heather, the two former Prime Ministers of the Cook Islands now serving as general practitioner for the Integrated Family Health Centre in Mt Wellington, Dr Joe Williams and Dr Robert Woonton and the first Cook Island Member of Parliament in NZ, Alfred Ngaro.
The celebration showcased Cook Island culture, food, dance and stories.
According to the NZ 2013 Census, the Cook Islands population in New Zealand is the second largest ethnic group comprised of 61,839 people.
The majority of the Cook Islands population live in the Auckland Region (59.5 percent or 36,810 people) with 77.4 percent (47,244 people) were born in New Zealand and 22.6 percent (13,764 people) were born overseas.
Samoans are by far the largest Pacific group in New Zealand.
The Cook Islands is self-governing in free association with New Zealand, meaning it administers its own affairs but its nationals are New Zealand citizens and have open access to work and residency in New Zealand.