Henry Puna

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Henry Puna
Henry Puna 2015.jpg
9th Prime Minister of the Cook Islands
Assumed office
30 November 2010
MonarchElizabeth II
RepresentativeFrederick Tutu Goodwin
Tom Marsters
Preceded byJim Marurai
Personal details
Born (1949-07-29) 29 July 1949 (age 70)
Aitutaki, Cook Islands
Political partyCook Islands Party
Spouse(s)Akaiti Puna
Alma materUniversity of Auckland
University of Tasmania

Henry Tuakeu Puna[1] (born 29 July 1949)[2] is the Prime Minister of the Cook Islands. He is leader of the Cook Islands Party[3] and has been Prime Minister since November 2010.

Early life[edit]

Puna grew up in Aitutaki.[2] He was educated on Aitutaki and Rarotonga before studying law at the University of Auckland in New Zealand and the University of Tasmania in Australia.[2] He worked as a lawyer before entering politics.[2]

Puna's father, Tuakeu Manuela, was a Member of the Legislative Assembly, and his older brothers William Estall and Ngereteina Puna both served as Cabinet Ministers, also his brother Manuela Puna served as Clerk of the Cook Islands Parliament.[2]

Political career[edit]

Puna first stood for Parliament at the 2004 election, contesting Prime Minister Robert Woonton's seat of Manihiki.[4] He narrowly lost the seat on election night,[5] but challenged the result in an election petition.[6] The petition was upheld, with several voters being disqualified; the subsequent recount produced a tie,[7] precipitating a by-election which Puna ultimately won.[8]

In September 2006, following the retirement of party leader Geoffrey Henry, Puna was elected leader of the Cook Islands Party.[9] He subsequently lost his seat in the Manihiki constituency to Apii Piho in the 2006 election,[10] but continued to serve as leader outside Parliament. Because he was not a member of Parliament, Puna was not the leader of the opposition; this position was filled by Tom Marsters. Puna worked as a lawyer and pearl farmer during his time out of parliament.[11][12]

In September 2009, Puna was unanimously re-elected party leader.[13]

Prime Minister[edit]

Puna was elected as MP for Manihiki during the 2010 election, in which his party won 16 of the 24 seats. On 30 November 2010 he was sworn in as Prime Minister of the Cook Islands.[14]

Puna made his first official visit to New Zealand as Prime Minister in August 2011.[15]

It was under Puna's premiership that the Cook Islands became, in November 2011, a founding member of the Polynesian Leaders Group, a regional grouping intended to cooperate on a variety of issues including culture and language, education, responses to climate change, and trade and investment.[16][17][18]

In December 2019 a private prosecution for fraud was lodged against Puna and Deputy Prime Minister Mark Brown, alleging that a government-chartered aircraft had been misused. The case is still unresolved.[19]

In June 2020 he surrendered his Education portfolio and was appointed Police Minister in a Cabinet reshuffle.[20]

In June 2020 Puna announced his intention to stand down as Prime Minister in September in order to compete for the role of Secretary-General of the Pacific Islands Forum.[21][22] He will be replaced by Mark Brown.

Personal life[edit]

Puna is a member of the Seventh-day Adventist Church.[23]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Parliamentary General Election – Main Electoral Roll – Manihiki, Cook Islands Registrar of Electors, 10 May 2010.
  2. ^ a b c d e "New PM sworn in today". Cook Islands News. 30 November 2010. Retrieved 5 December 2010.
  3. ^ "Race begins for Position of Cook Islands Deputy PM". Radio New Zealand International. 19 November 2010. Retrieved 19 November 2010.
  4. ^ "Cooks opposition warns of prime minister losing seat over pearl industry decline". Radio New Zealand International. 6 September 2004. Retrieved 5 January 2010.
  5. ^ "Cooks PM Woonton retains seat". Radio New Zealand International. 14 September 2004. Retrieved 5 January 2010.
  6. ^ "Cook Islands prime minister named in election petition". Radio New Zealand International. 23 September 2004. Retrieved 5 January 2010.
  7. ^ "Cooks to vote for new Prime Minister after election draw leads to by-election". Radio New Zealand International. 12 December 2004. Archived from the original on 24 May 2012. Retrieved 5 January 2010.
  8. ^ "Preliminary results show Puna wins Cook Islands by-election". Radio New Zealand International. 10 February 2005. Retrieved 5 January 2010.
  9. ^ "Henry Puna elected as leader of Cook Islands Party". Radio New Zealand International. 4 September 2006. Retrieved 5 January 2010.
  10. ^ "Leader of Cook Islands Party at a loss over election result". Radio New Zealand International. 1 October 2006. Retrieved 5 January 2010.
  11. ^ Manihiki airport case given more time, The Cook Islands Herald, 4 August 2008.
  12. ^ Wong, Helen: Government Instability In The Cook Islands – Causes And Effects, Australian National University, 21 September 2007.
  13. ^ "Henry Puna still CIP leader". Cook Islands News. 23 September 2009. Archived from the original on 28 September 2009. Retrieved 5 January 2010.
  14. ^ "New Cook Islands PM sworn in". Radio New Zealand International. 30 November 2010. Retrieved 1 December 2010.
  15. ^ "Cook Islands prime minister makes first formal visit to New Zealand". The Hollywood Reporter. 12 August 2011. Retrieved 12 August 2011.
  16. ^ "NZ may be invited to join proposed ‘Polynesian Triangle’ ginger group", Pacific Scoop, 19 September 2011
  17. ^ "New Polynesian Leaders Group formed in Samoa", Radio New Zealand International, 18 November 2011
  18. ^ "American Samoa joins Polynesian Leaders Group, MOU signed"[permanent dead link], Savali, 19 November 2011
  19. ^ "Cook Islands PM, deputy PM accused of fraud". RNZ. 11 December 2019. Retrieved 17 June 2020.
  20. ^ Rashneel Kumar (4 June 2020). "Puna takes on Police portfolio". Cook Islands News. Retrieved 5 June 2020.
  21. ^ "The Cook Islands PM to stand down in September". RNZ. 17 June 2020. Retrieved 17 June 2020.
  22. ^ "Cook Islands PM Henry Puna to step down, nominated for Forum SG". PINA. 17 June 2020. Retrieved 17 June 2020.
  23. ^ "Adventists elected into Cook Islands Parliament". Adventist Record. Retrieved 5 July 2019.
Assembly seats
Preceded by
Robert Woonton
Member of Parliament
for Manihiki

Succeeded by
Apii Piho
Preceded by
Apii Piho
Member of Parliament
for Manihiki

Party political offices
Preceded by
Geoffrey Henry
Leader of the Cook Islands Party Incumbent
Political offices
Preceded by
Jim Marurai
Prime Minister of the Cook Islands