Cook Islands Prime Minister Mark Brown has confirmed the appointment of Albert Nicholas as the country’s Deputy Prime Minister (DPM).

The Avatiu–Ruatonga–Palmerston MP holds the Infrastructure Cook Islands, Cook Islands Investment Corporation, National Environment Services, Business Trade and Investment Board, and Transport portfolios.

In a statement, the Office of the Prime Minister said: “Through his work in these portfolios Nicholas will have extensive involvement in various projects in the Pa Enua. Projects like the Manihiki Airport, Nassau harbour and Pa Enua renewable energy upgrades.”

“This involvement, coupled with his personal ties makes him well suited to driving important initiatives aimed at integrating the Pa Enua into the national economy.”

The role became vacant after former deputy prime minister and Penrhyn MP Robert Tapaitau lost his seat due to a corruption conviction late last month.

Two weeks ago, Pukapuka-Nassau MP Tingika Elikana was sworn in as the new Crown Minister. Elikana received the portfolios of Foreign Affairs and Immigration, Marine Resources, and Parliamentary Services.

Prime Minister Mark Brown said: “In our Cabinet it will be Minister Nicholas that will carry the interests of the Pa Enua. Both Foreign Minister Elikana and I will have heavy internationally focused agendas. I will be relying on Minister Nicholas to devote a lot of effort to our Pa Enua in getting a number of projects completed.”

“My emphasis on prioritising the interests of the country over convention reflects the need to focus on expanding our economic activities beyond Rarotonga and Aitutaki to include other islands like Mangaia, Nga Pu Toru and Pae Tokerau, as we rebuild our post COVID-19 economy and improve living standards across the nation. We need to do things differently.

“We lost four years of productivity due to COVID; my focus is on growing the economy so we can pay our teachers and nurses and everyone else more. To do this we must bring our Pa Enua into our economy, that means transportation, energy and labour needs to be available in the Pa Enua.

“DPM Nicholas will be responsible for laying the building blocks to bring our Pa Enua into our economy,” the Prime Minister said.

PM Brown has also appointed Ngatangiia Member of Parliament Tukaka (Kaka) Ama Associate Minister for Foreign Affairs and Finance, Sonny Williams (Member of Parliament for Titikaveka) has been appointed Assistant Minister to the Prime Minister, Teokotai (Tango) Herman has been appointed Assistant Minister for Tourism, and Mauke MP Steven Matapo is now also Assistant Minister for Transport.

“In Parliament next week we will be nominating Mitiaro MP Tuakeu Tangatapoto as Deputy Speaker, and Manihiki MP Akaiti Puna as Leader of the House.

“Overall, these appointments reflect my vision for inclusive economic development and inclusive governance for our country” Prime Minister Brown concluded.