Albert Royle Henry (11 June 1907 – 1 January 1981) was the first Leader of the Cook Islands Party and became the Cook Islands’ first Premier in 1965 after having lived in New Zealand for several years before returning to his home country. Before the country’s accession to a self-governing status, the country had been ruled by New Zealand since annexation in 1901. Global changes to post-colonial attitudes regarding nations colonized by colonial powers prompted New Zealand to alter its political course as regards to the Cook Islands, Niue and Tokelau.
Henry was not eligible to run for election to the Legislative Assembly in the 1965 Cook Islands election because he had not been a resident of the Cook Islands for three years. The CIP had Henry’s sister, Marguerite Story, run in the Te-au-o-Tonga riding as a “stand-in” for Henry. After the CIP formed the government, it quickly changed the residency requirement from three years to three months, and Story resigned the seat so that Henry could run in the by-election. Henry won the by-election in Te-au-o-Tonga and shortly afterwards he was selected as the first Premier of the Cook Islands.
Henry was re-elected consistently in the election of 1968, 1972, 1974 and March 1978. Upon being elected Premier, Henry did much to unify the Cook Islands and to promote its newly awarded self-government. His government quickly approved the proposed constitution, which awarded self-rule to the Cook Islands while maintaining New Zealand citizenship for its residents. He was a charismatic orator in both Māori and in English.
Sir Geoffrey Arama Henry KBE (16 November 1940 – 9 May 2012) was a Cook Island politician who was twice the Prime Minister of the Cook Islands. He was leader of the Cook Islands Party (CIP) from 1979 to 2006.
Henry was a native of Aitutaki. His father was the deacon of the Cook Islands Christian Church on the island. He was also first cousin to Albert Henry. He received a law degree from Victoria University of Wellington in New Zealand. He was married to Lady Louisa Henry.
Henry initially entered parliament in the opposition party aged 24. However, in 1972 he joined the CIP and he became finance minister.
Henry became leader of the CIP in 1979 after his cousin Albert Henry was forced to resign. Geoffrey Henry’s first tenure as Prime Minister was from 13 April 1983 to 16 November 1983. From 1983 to 1989 he was the Leader of the Opposition in the Parliament of the Cook Islands. Henry’s second tenure as Prime Minister began on 1 February 1989 and ended on 29 July 1999, when he resigned rather but Henry remained as leader of the CIP.
In November 2004, Henry became the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance in a coalition government led by Robert Woonton. Henry continued in this position until 2006, when he retired from politics and as leader of the CIP. Henry Puna succeeded Henry as leader of the CIP.
On 13 June 1992, while serving as Prime Minister, Henry was appointed a Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire (KBE) by Queen Elizabeth II.
On 16 April 2009, Henry was elected to a four-year term as president of the Cook Islands Sports and National Olympic Committee and the Sir Geoffrey Henry National Culture Centre in Avarua is named in Henry’s honour.
On 18 February 2011 he was elected Speaker of the Cook Islands Parliament.
On 9 May 2012, Henry died at the age of 71 at his home in Takuvaine, Rarotonga.
Henry Tuakeu Puna (born 29 July 1949) is the current Prime Minister of the Cook Islands. He is current leader of the Cook Islands Party and has been Prime Minister since November 2010 bringing his government into its third term in 2018.
Puna grew up in Aitutaki. 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. He worked as a lawyer before entering politics.
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.
Puna first stood for Parliament at the 2004 election, contesting Prime Minister Robert Woonton’s seat of Manihiki. He narrowly lost the seat on election night, but challenged the result in an election petition. The petition was upheld, with several voters being disqualified; the subsequent recount produced a tie, precipitating a by-election which Puna ultimately won.
In September 2006, following the retirement of party leader Geoffrey Henry, Puna was elected leader of the Cook Islands Party. He subsequently lost his seat in the Manihiki constituency in the 2006 election, 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 with Puna working as a lawyer and pearl farmer during his time out of parliament.
In September 2009, Puna was unanimously re-elected as Cook Islands Party leader and 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.
In 2014 the Cook Islands Party won the election again and in 2018 the Cook Islands Party formed a coalition government with three Independent members of Parliament and have formed government bringing this government into its third term.
Under Puna’s leadership 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.
They have also passed into Law the Marae Moana Act as well as an extensive renewable energy project for all the Cook Islands and reformed the Family Law and Protection Bill. The Cook Islands economy continues to do well under this current government with Tourism flourishing and stability and economic growth on the rise.