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CORONAVIRUS LATEST  (Islands remain free from Covid-19)
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The content of this page - unless otherwise credited - is a summary of stories from  Cook Islands News, the daily newspaper of the Cook Islands which is published Monday to Saturday inclusive

Its web site www.cookislandsnews.com is updated daily and is highly recommended as a trusted source of news.  This summary is published with permission of the copyright owners Cook Islands News Ltd.  Click on any underlined headlines for the full story on the newpaper's own website.  Photos unless otherwise credited are copyright Cook Islands News
 
Four local internet providers have been granted licences in a bid to improve services and bring down costs. They include Kuk i net who are promising uncapped data deals and the use of satellite broadband technology. Vodafone is the only service provider at the moment.
The Tourism Corporation has launched a rapid training programme to for businesses and individuals to protect residents and international visitors from Covid. They're encouraging people to join them in making a "Cook Islands Promise" on social distancing, good hygeine and disinfection, while maintaining the Kia Orana spirit of welcome. 300 people from Rarotonga and Aitutaki have also participated in the first phase of training.
Te Tauta village
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Cultural village dancers
The government is backing a bid to get world heritage status for a 600 year old village high in the hills around Rarotonga. Maungaroa was inhabited by Tinomana Ariki and his tribe long before the arrival of Christianity and was unihabited for many years before it was transformed into a cultural village visitor attraction. The   Ministry of Culture says HIghland Paradise is an "unparallelled example of a living marae" and its asking UNESCO to designate it.  Photo: Highland Paradise website
Two hydroponics and school gardens have been established on Penrhyn (Tongareva) to increase the consumption of locally produced fruit and vegetables. Handing them over, the Agriculture Secretary, Marama Anguna-Kamana said growing using water without soil was an innovative way of dealing with the challenges of the sandy soil on the remote outer islands. It would also increase food resilience in the event of disasters.
Photo:Te Tautua on the eastern side of the island is where most of the population of 226 live (Photo: Robert Broussard)

A new king has been crowned on Mangaia, and the entire population of the island was there to watch.  Tangi Tereapii was installed Numangatini Ariki at Te Maruata-Nui-o-Numangatini marae. The day long event was also attended by friends and families from Rarotonga, Aitutaki and Atiu. Marguees 20 metres long were filled with food to share.
Mangaia's new king
NEWS FROM THE OUTER ISLANDS
The Japanese government is giving a grant of up to NZ$131,700 to improve water supplies on Mauke.  The money will pay for eight new concrete water tanks and a mobile tank for fire emergencies
The Prime Minister has been told that the Cook Islands will be found in breach of international law if it continues to classify same-sex relationships as criminal. The warning was issued after a committee of MPs continued to delay a decision on whether to change the current laws which could mean up to seven years in prison for gay people.
The government has tightened border controls, included regulations about wearing face masks and toughened up the penalties for breaking the law which it passed earlier this year to protect the Islands from the pandemic. Prime Minister, Mark Brown said passing the law would mean the country could "look forward to the next few months...with hope and optimism rather than fear and panic". He also told Parliament that his Cabinet would take seriously any decisions about lifting the current quarantine rules.
Cook Islanders will be able to travel to New Zealand without the need to quarantine on arrival from 21st January. The Prime Ministers of the two countries said it would allow Islanders to access health services,  start or resume school and university and visit family for the first time in nearly a year without the quarantine requirement. New Zealanders still won't be allowed to visit the Cook Islands but both governments are hoping to have a two-way travel "bubble" in place by the end of March.
A New Zealand businessman is planning to launch a new airline next year which will provide direct flights to Rarotonga from Wellington and Christchurch. Mike Pero's Pasifika Air is proposing three flights a week from each of the New Zealand cities from May, 2021. He believes the services will help restore the Islands' tourism econmony. Above: artist's impression of the new plane's livery
washed up green turtle
A green sea turtle which died after ingesting a plastic bag has led to a renewed call to end plastic pollution.  The turtle was washed up on Rutaki beach on Rarotonga just before Christmas. Award winning ocean photographer, Charlotte Pioho has add her voice to the local environmental group, Te Ipukarea Society in urging islanders to eliminate their use of plastics. 
Polluted Muri lagoon
Muri lagoon, normally the jewel in Rarotonga's crown for swimming and snorkelling is now unsafe because of pollution caused by environmental conditions and human activity. Government scientists are advising that locals avoid it because it's saturated with a foul smelling dark coloured sediment.  Dead fish, eels, sea cucumber and marine worms have also been found along the shoreline. The scientists say swimming in the water could result in illness and they're closely monitoring it.
Penryhn./Tongareva aerial - Ewan Smith
PENRHYN IN DIRE STRAIGHTS AS WATER RUNS OUT
An emergency shipment of water is on its way to the most northerly of the Cook Islands where water has all but run out. Penrhyn also know as Tongareva (pictured left) hasn't had any significant rain for six months and many community and private water tanks are empty. Prime Minister, Mark Brown said the situation "represents the very real effect of climate change". There's an estimated 70,000 litres of water remaining for the population of 250 and that's expected to run out in 14 days.  A transport barge will leave Rarotonga on Saturday with 200,000 litres of water along with equipment for a desalination plant.
Source: Government Press Release.  Photo: Ewan Smith