RAROTONGA, Cook Islands, Feb. 20 (Xinhua) -- People of the Cook Islands on Thursday were celebrating a very happy day, with a new water system that would change lives in the Pacific nation, thanks to the deep and growing friendship with China, said Cook Islands Prime Minister Henry Puna.
In an exclusive interview with Xinhua after a ground-breaking ceremony for the Te Mato Vai water supply project on Rarotonga, Puna said the nation's water problems were being addressed "in a very comprehensive way."
The largest infrastructure project in the Cook Islands, Te Mato Vai is a "triangular" partnership between New Zealand, China and the Cook Islands to replace the island's aging water network with an investment of 65 million NZ dollars (53.96 million U.S. dollars) .
"Today's a very important day, a very important and happy day for us because our partnership, our relationship, has finally come out in the open in this very important project. So for me and the Cook Islands it's a big day and a very happy day," said Puna.
"I love our relationship with China and it's a relationship that is growing and growing. We think of China as our very special friends. This project just shows how deep and special that friendship is."
Earlier at the ground-breaking ceremony, Puna said in a speech that the three nations were "pioneering a new collaborative force in economic cooperation and sustainable development in the region.
"As a collaborative model, the water project carries with it the innovation and foresight of the three countries, which recognize the value of respective strengths and expertise, the importance of sharing skills and resources, and significance of how much difference can be made to the lives of so many people by just working together," said Puna.
"The water partnership project with our two closest friends will change our lives forever, and the vulnerabilities of aging and inadequate water supply systems will be put behind us once and for all," he said.