Mildura Weekly : Friday March 27 2015 Vol 9 No 20
22 NEWS MILDURA WEEKLY FRIDAY, MARCH 27, 2015 PEOPLE AND PLACES The Mildura Weekly’s ALAN ERSKINE is not long back from a short, but memorable, stay on Rarotonga, Life, and death, on MOST of the people, most of the time, live life in the ‘slow lane’ on beautiful Rarotonga, biggest and most populous island of the Cook Islands group of 15, and home to its capital Avarua. There’s no hurry to get anywhere, because you don’t have to go far to get there...it’s only 32 kilometres around the entire island. Most people out of the popula- tion of around 12,000 get around on scooters or motorbikes. With fuel currently around $2.50 a litre, it’s the cheapest option. The speed limit is 50kph (40kph if you don’t wear a helmet) and drops to 30kph through the more popular regions, such as the capital Avarua. A driving licence costs $20 (extra $5 for a motorbike licence), with the ‘test’ - steering through a line of cones, completed within sec- onds in the police station car park. Geographically speaking, Raro- tonga is well out into the Pacific Ocean, roughly between Hawaii and New Zealand. The flight from NZ takes four hours, but you put your watch back 22 hours after crossing the International Date Line. The islands in the group, made up of north and south, cover around two million square kilometres. Fur- therest island is Pukapuka, about 1150km from Rarotonga, and one of the most remote places on Earth. Pukapuka (also known as the Danger Island), dates back to 1595, first discovered by the Spanish, and interestingly its population of 450 is said to be descended from just 14 people who survived a catastrophic tsunami around 500 years ago. Mildura is home to about 15 original Pukapuka islanders and their extended families, with others settled in Griffith, Brisbane and oth- er regions, as well as NZ. The Cook Islands have a total population of fewer than 20,000, with half those living on Rarotonga. Most islanders have opted for a change of lifestyle in NZ (about 50,000 people) or Aus- tralia (10,000). One of the closest islands to Rarotonga is Atutaki, said to be in the Top 10 of the most beautiful islands on the planet. Less than an hour’s flight from Rarotonga, it’s very popular for weddings. You can fly there for the day from Rarotonga for $500 a head. Obviously, Rarotonga is by far the most popular island for tourists. About 120,000 people visit this is- land paradise annually. For some reason, the Chinese have it on their radar, and are try- ing to buy as much land as they can. It’s not as simple as it seems. Land is owned by the people, handed down from generation to generation. It can’t be bought outright, just leased, and for no longer than 60 years. The Cook Islands Government is the only entity that can buy land for public use. I saw a few places listed for ‘sale’ while I was there. The average price for a modest two or three-bedroom house, on half an acre or less, was around $250,000. Usually there was around 50 years left on the lease. One of the things that catches your eye driving - or riding - around the island, is (a) the number of churches, and (b) the burial plots in people’s front and back yards. Some are single plots, others multiple, with many on prime land overlooking the beautiful lagoon inside the reef that circles most of the island. • WELCOME: The Mildura Weekly’s Alan Erskine attended a Sunday church service on Rarotonga, catching up with Cook Islands leader of the opposition ‘Smiley’ Heather, LEFT, and Travel Tou Ariki, president of the House of Ariki (Council of Chiefs). ATTENTION ALL PET LOVERS! CONVENIENTDRIVETHROUGHSERVICE P ALL PE T ATTENTIO Mildura Mildura Stockfeeds Eleventh Street, Mildura (Opposite Showgrounds) - Ph 5021 4484 www.mildurastockfeeds.com.au UNDER NEW MANAGEMENT You need it? 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Friday March 20 2015 Vol 9 No 19
Friday April 2 2015 Vol 9 No 21