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Public Health Law Reform

Health ministry Te Marae Ora is holding open consultation sessions this month for members of the public who want to have their say on the current public health law reform process.
Since late 2019, Te Marae Ora has been working with stakeholders and experts at the World Health Organisation to review our existing public health laws and develop proposals for reform.
The main focus of this review and reform process is the Public Health Act 2004, our country’s core public health law.
The key objective of the review is to modernise the Cook Islands’ public health laws to ensure the country is better equipped to respond to current and emerging health challenges and to promote and protect the health of Cook Islanders into the future.
Public health laws are critical to the physical, spiritual, mental, social and economic wellbeing of individuals and the community. They help to safeguard our community against threats to our collective health and create the conditions necessary for us all to enjoy long, healthy lives.
Our public health laws support our immunisation programmes, ensure we have safe, clean drinking water, and help us keep infectious diseases out of the country and control other risks to health.
The Public Health Act 2004 needs reform, it is outdated and does not provide for contemporary interventions to address current and emerging health challenges, such as rising rates of non-communicable diseases.
It is also inconsistent with other laws and fails to facilitate the whole-of-society action we need to advance our collective health.
The COVID-19 pandemic brought the Act’s shortcomings into sharp focus, revealing that it is not fit to protect us against threats to our health. However, the new Public Health Act is not intended to supplant the COVID-19 Act 2020, which will continue to operate with respect to COVID-19.
A Bill for the new Public Health Act is planned to be introduced to Parliament in March 2021, to take effect later in the year.
A draft policy paper, which proposes a new legal framework for the administration and practice of public health, can be found on the Te Marae Ora website at
This policy paper explains in detail the rationale for the reforms and outlines the proposed measures to be included in the new Act. After consultation, the paper will be finalised and submitted to Cabinet for approval to start drafting of a new Bill. The Bill will then undergo another round of consultations before going to Parliament.
Further information on the public health law reform process, including a summary of the current Act and proposed changes, a Q&A sheet, and details on the consultation process can also be found online at
To find out how you can join one of our consultation sessions, phone TMO on +682 29664 or send an email to Written submissions on the reform process and proposed changes can also be emailed to this address.

ENDS: Enquiries to Jaewynn McKay +682 55486
For up to date information visit