Embracing Managerialism in a Small Pacific Island State: A Study of Governance and New Public Management Outcomes in the Cook Islands From 2006-2012

Tisam, Jonah Nardu
Tangaloa Fairbairn-Dunlop, Peggy
Waring, Marilyn
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Doctor of Philosophy
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Auckland University of Technology

At self-government in free association with New Zealand on 4 August 1965, the Cook Islands adopted the Westminster Parliamentary Democratic system of government. Alongside these modern systems were the traditional family-based Ariki (chiefly) system that was recognised in the Constitution, and by an act of Parliament in 1966 the House of Ariki was established. An amendment made to the House of Ariki Act in 1972 established the Koutu Nui. In 1969, ten Island Councils were established to manage the affairs of the island communities. In addition to these formal institutions, many churches and civil society organisations contribute to and support the development of the Cook Islands. Between 1995 and 1997 a comprehensive public sector reform took place as a response to the nation’s poor economic performance. A number of neoliberal legislation were introduced, bringing new policies and processes that required the collaboration of national agencies. Post-reform reports emphasised the success of the reforms in terms of a better performing public service and an improved economy. There has been less attention given to the question of whether and how the reform process has resulted in a better quality of life for all the people and/or increased people’s understanding of their role in the new governance system. This thesis explores people’s understanding of the systems of governance underpinning the outcomes of New Public Management (NPM) in the Cook Islands from 2006 to 2012 period. A General Systems Theoretical (GST) framework was used to explore the various parts of governance and the Pacific worldview was used with a Cook Islands lens to encapsulate the epistemology of the people, and the Cook Islands Tivaivai research model was used as a process to widely collect people’s views of the phenomenon. Individual interviews were carried out with twenty participants comprising government officials, NGOS and members of the civil society, spread over urban, rural, and by gender – and three key informants were surveyed. A critique of documents relating to governance and NPM in that period of study was carried out. Some positive outcomes were identified, however the incomplete reform process created tensions in the system. It brought about some negative outcomes and created new challenges which are highlighted in this study. A number of policy recommendations are made, and some areas for further studies have been suggested.

Cook Islands; Governance; New public management; Reforms; Qualitative; Systems theory; , Pacific; Tivaivai
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