The Cook Islands Strategic Development Action Plan NZ 2020 - 2030

Te Ra Ou of Cooperation

Purpose of this Plan - 'Te Ra Ou' of Cooperative Action

The inaugural Cook Islands Development Action Plan 2012-2015 originally engaged our Cook Islands groups and organisations across nine regions around New Zealand. It was the first time a number of us came together as a community and resolved to pursue the vision of united and prosperous Cook Islanders. We forged a new dawn – ‘Akirata Ou’ – committing ourselves to achieve 11 priorities and 59 actions.

The purpose of this revised Cook islands Development Strategic Action Plan (CIDSAP) re-affirms the path we started on, and aims to strengthen and coordinate what is working and has been achieved. It embodies latest research and trends at local and global levels, as well as practical learnings from our New Zealand community. It has been made more relevant, inclusive, aspirational and doable, to spell out what is possible in all our regions.

With this Plan we dream of:


— Coordination

National coordination and expansion of our successful regional innovations and successes.


— Young People

More participation and development of Cook Islands Children and Young people in everything we do.


— Interconnection

Interconnection between our human, socio-cultural and economic wellbeing and then environment.


— Good Business

Making Good Business and Enterprise work for the wellbeing of our families and communities across New Zealand.


— Technology

Cook Islands access and encouragement with technology and other local and global trends as vehicles of innovation and enterprise


— Cooperation

Growing cooperative attitudes and relationships, as well as an eco-system of mutual support, skills and resources to be shared and leveraged for everyone’s benefit. 

Key Changes Made

Whilst we need to look inwardly at ourselves as a source of progress, development requires us to take a more outward-looking perspective and embrace our place in the interconnected world and its consequences upon us.

 Key changes made:

This plan refreshes our priorities. Many of our original actions remain relevant. Our conversations together have also revealed new opportunities for business development and investment in the provision of our socio-cultural goods and services.  

The CIDSAP NZ is a ten-year plan and outlines four areas of national strategic focus as a platform for building on all our sustainable development:

  • Joining Together
  • Investing in Ourselves
  • Working Cooperatively
  • Innovation and Enterprise

This represents a new day – ‘Te Ra Ou’ – of cooperation, as agreed to by the signing of a cooperative pledge at the 2020 Cook Islands National Forum by leaders from Whangarei, Auckland, Hamilton, Tokoroa, Hawkes Bay, Whanagui, Porirua/ Hutt Valley and Wellington, Christchurch/ Ashburton, Dunedin and Invercargill.

To support the delivery of this pledge, CIDANZ has been restructured as a national umbrella. The CIDANZ Board is now made up of Trustees from across New Zealand to strategically represent and coordinate our regional interests, needs and priorities at this governance level.

A new operational team is geared to provide capacity and know-how to our regional leaders and organisations to deliver their interests priorities on the ground. This includes a team of regionally-based people to coordinate locally-led action and initiatives, supported by a backbone of youth development, business, communications and marketing, and research and evaluation functions.

This CIDSAP outlines the priorities all of our regions want action upon, providing a foundation to guide a collaborative approach. At governance and operational levels, CIDANZ will act as a broker and enabler to unlock the resources that will coordinate and support our regions to self-determine their own contributions to the delivery of the actions stated in this CIDSAP.

This CIDSAP will be a living action plan hosted managed by the Research and Evaluation Unit as part of its job to document, synthesise, measure and demonstrate the impacts of our joint interventions now and into the future.


Four Key Priority Areas

01. Joining Together

The majority of our Cook Islands population live in the Auckland region (60%). However, despite being concentrated in South Auckland, Cook Islanders could be better supported to join together to connect and relate as one community of many divergent threads, as Pacific Islanders and as New Zealand citizens. Across New Zealand, our local Cook Islands communities suffer from geographical isolation, and a lack of investment and assets that comes with being relatively small, underrepresented and dispersed populations.


Through our passion and participation in our churches, cultural traditions of arts, crafts, music and dance, as well as sport and recreation, Cook Islanders have a strong foundation for Taokatai, cohesion and connection. We want to strengthen and join together more to talk, discover and mobilise effort around making our individual and collective dreams come true, particularly those of the younger generation.

We must not be separated by our geography, age, backgrounds or mentality. We are all responsible for strengthening the ways in which we come together socially, physically and emotionally to maximise and channel this collective potential and energy in the cultivation of relationships of mutual trust, reciprocity, learning and action.

  • Whangarei Cook Islands’ leadership and facilitation of its Pasifika Festivals. 

  • Pa Metua programmes led by young Cook Islanders in Hamilton. 

  • The ongoing successes of Auckland Cook Islands Sports Association (ACISA) and Cook Islands Rugby NZ (CIRNZ) 

  • This year our conversations have led to joint efforts to create a Cook Islands Language Commission and Language Strategy.

The diversity of our groups and organisations provide an untapped wealth that can be harnessed to generate pride, connection and new ideas. By building on what we share we can combine to demonstrate our important part as a thread in New Zealand’s cultural diversity.


Faith, sports and cultural gatherings are extremely important to us and need to be grown and nurtured. Our social gatherings are times and places that brings us together to learn about ourselves, our history, culture and language. These common unities provide opportunities to acknowledge and grow what we value.


COVID-19 demonstrated that joining together can be done even at a distance to share information, ideas, purpose and action. Online meetings, programmes and services can connect us when physical presence is difficult.

02. Investing in Ourselves

Cook Islanders have many strengths, different talents, assets and resources, whether expertise, knowledge, good relationships in Pacific and mainstream circles, supportive families, trades, education, motivation, land & buildings, businesses, financial resources, as well as positions of power and influence. Our ability to leverage or access more of these capitals for the collective betterment of all lies at the heart of our sustainable development. We have a unique opportunity as a more connected and proud community to invest in our wellbeing, to grow more of what we have to share and uplift others less fortunate.

We have learned that our relationships must enable our Cook Islands community to understand, value and invest in ourselves better – our children and youth, elders, families and groups and their interests, passions, talents, knowledge and capabilities. Unless we value, celebrate and help ourselves, no-one else will.

  • Both Hamilton and Christchurch regions have successfully taken turns to deliver the Cook Islands Language Week 3-yr contract with the Ministry of Pacific Peoples. 

  • In Auckland, CIDANZ has successfully obtained land and consents, as well as investment to design, build and operate the first Cook Island total Immersion ECE facility and curriculum. 

  • With the support of funding from PFL and DIA Auckland has invested in pilot research & evaluation to start to document understand the impacts of its innovation programme.

We all need to value ourselves, as individual and as a community, and be valued by others. Investing in ourselves means we value what we have to offer and demonstrate a hand-up, rather than a hand-out. It enables us to be more aware of our political capital where we can participate to self-determine our future. 

Youth must be better supported to feel valued and have a voice. The 2020 National Forum heard our young people share their perspectives on a national stage and from here CIDANZ is investing in a Youth Development Coordinator to continue to bring youth together to co-create their own version of this CIDSAP.

Cook Islanders can be supported by services and programmes that value and better represent their needs, interests and situations. However, these need to be defined and delivered by ourselves for ourselves, but informed by best practice stakeholders to include areas such as employment and training, financial education and literacy, governance, homecare services for our elderly, and early childhood and tertiary education.

03. Working Cooperatively

Individualism and self-interest is failing Cook Islanders socially, culturally, economically and environmentally. Whilst we are an incredibly competitive and proud people, we should use these motivations to humbly uplift our entire community through collaboration and genuine co-operation. To be the best we can be requires that our programmes, organisations, relationships and networks equitably provide mutual benefits that arise from all our activities and not primarily from financial bottom-lines. It takes a village to raise a child, and it takes a cooperative worldview to raise a village. A revitalization of cooperative behaviour and action must necessarily underlie our investment in our individual and collective wellbeing.

Cooperation is a fundamental human value we can live and practice better. Cooperativism was once a traditional practice, where trading and leveraging for common benefit worked well for Cook Islanders.

We have learnt that establishing cooperative working among Cook Islanders in NZ is a challenge, but provides wellbeing and growth. By nurturing the foundations of cooperation and solidarity, we can arouse a consciousness of connection and interdependence, rather than isolation and competition.

  • Under oneBASKET a number of collaborations among our family enterprises have showcased what is possible when passion for traditional foods are culturally infused to take on catering contracts and enterprise. 

  • oneHERITAGE has provided a platform for our Vainetini women’s collective to grow from three to 50+ creating bespoke products (through Te Papa retail stores), as well as reviving and teaching old ways among new and younger Cook Islanders.

In New Zealand, under a dominant western system of economic neo-liberalism, free markets and individualistic competition and greed, bucking the trend to pursue alternative socioeconomic

models is a challenge. But we are not alone. There are many successful cooperative movements happening across the globe among many indigenous and cultural groups we can learn from. 


Cooperation is fundamental to community development. It builds trust and mutuality, providing a means and end of collaboration, sharing and exchange that promotes interdependence and collective growth. 


Our conversations at the 2020 National Forum have re-affirmed a spirit of cooperativism. A number of practical opportunities have opened up and the possibility of leveraging the ecosystem of our community capitals to create business and enterprise to serve ourselves and a wider market – whether housing and cultural facility construction; agriculture, aquaculture and food services – is a real and exciting prospect. 


Honest talk about what we each have to offer others in a common venture is empowering and creates mutual connection and pride.

04. Innovation and Enterprise

The past five years have seen CIDANZ explore the possibilities of social innovation and family enterprise. Auckland has been gratefully supported by Pasifika Futures Ltd, Auckland Council, Pacific Business Trust and others to pilot the creation of Cook Islands family start-ups across the cooperative oneBRAND portfolio. It is now time to expand this practice nationally, based on the idea that cooperative business can unlock the wealth of what Cook Islanders already have to become more self-determining, empowered and financially independent. However, our biggest challenge is a need to reduce our overall dependence on government and charitable funding and build our own financial capital, control and autonomy. Small business and family enterprise should be supplemented by an investment in big business, where significant profits can be realised and reinvested in our community development initiatives.

Cooperation is a fundamental human value we can live and practice better. Cooperativism We are convinced of the imperative to generate alternative sources of finance and reduce our dependence on the public and philanthropic sectors’ short-term grants, one-off contracts or project-by-project funding. Economic wellbeing requires us to embrace business and not just be consumers of others’ goods and services.

Our Cook Islands community, particularly young people and families can be supported to innovate, build and harness the benefits of business and enterprise through access to new knowledge, skills, tools and advancements in technology, manufacturing and production.

  • Exhibiting our arts and crafts at Te Papa, Wellington

  • Collaboration with the Sikh community to use our traditional knowledge and skills and turn their waste material into goods and products of value to a wider market place

  • oneCOMMUNITY SHED in Auckland as a place for people to learn, design, test and develop their ideas.

In a world where business is increasingly having to demonstrate a positive impact on people and planet to customers, shareholders and investors, we can form partnerships that tap into these potential sources of social, physical and financial capital.


Turning what we have – human, cultural, social and physical capital into profitable products and services can improve our financial situations and be re-invested into doing more for our community. This is not only possible, but also relatively easy with the right kind of mindset, training, confidence, acumen and skills, as well as investment, mentoring and market-based opportunities.


As a development agency, CIDANZ is committed to supporting the creation of small and big businesses and connecting them in local and national cooperative supply chains. New international investment pathways have been established. This means that significant financial capital for viable, large infrastructure and business developments such as housing, cultural tourism centres, recycling and waste treatment, telecommunications, shipping and primary industries aspired to in our regions can be invested in and supported to work.

Our Cook Islands People & Priorities Across NZ



(981 in Whangarei)

Man drought, limited investment, access to opportunities

Building Cook Islands identity & participation, agricultural enterprise, online language tool, and Early Learning Center



Youth voice & participation, unemployment and access to social services

Housing, family & social services, enterprise, language & cultural development, cultural centre. 

Waikato - Hamilton


(2,127 in Hamilton)

Education, employment & training for youth, loss of reo, high social service users

Cultural Hub (resources and services), Early learning group/centre, youth leadership, skills mapping & development, connection and participation, business &and enterprise.

South Waikato - Tokoroa


198 in Tokoroa

Unrealised assets (youth and land), and youth participation. 

Early learning centre, business and enterprise, up-skilling and development.



Disbursed community, no meeting spaces, political rivalries.

Business and economic development, language and culture revitalisation, elderly support and social services.

Hawkes Bay


2,235 in Hastings

Human and financial resources, ageing population, and local funding.

Housing and infrastructure on land, horticulture/agriculture opportunities, upgrade existing cultural centre, trades and maintenance, businesses

Porirua / Hutt Valley

3,588  / 2,568

State housing, lack of jobs and educational opportunities, social and economic deprivation.

Business and housing, cultural festivals, arts and crafts development, upgrades to meeting spaces.



Buy-jn, competition and politics

Cultural events, trades and maintenance opportunities, good governance and participation, and tertiary education.



No meeting spaces, lack of understanding/awareness of education system, limited human and financial resources.

Online arts and crafts store, own community facility, cultural events and housing.

Otago - Dunedin


1,041 in Dunedin

Large student community, young families, small population, limited resources and loosely organised groups.

A facility, Early learning centre, student scholarships, grow cultural development through language. 



786 in Invercargill

Limited jobs and activities for young people, education not prioritised, 

Housing, trades/employment training and placements, skills and jobs mapping, networks, youth development.