Te Puna Vai Mārama, the Cook Islands Centre for Research is a joint venture arrangement between University of the South Pacific (USP), Cook Islands and the Cook Islands government to become a focal point and resource for research and the provision of information and policy advice to the Cook Islands government. The proposal was endorsed by the USP Cook Islands Advisory Committee at its meeting in 2017, and approved by the University Senate and the Cook Islands Government in 2018. The centre has recently been granted incorporated society status by the Cook Islands Ministry of Justice.
The vision of Te Puna Vai Mārama is to be the premier social science research centre in the Cook Islands and the Pacific. research facility in the Cook Islands. We work to generate new and transformational knowledge to inform policy and practice by building excellence in Cook Islands research and research capacity; collaborating with local, regional and international research partners, governments and agencies; and meaningfully engaging with NGOs and communities

TPVM will be responsible for training post graduate researchers, undertaking and facilitating research and policy studies, communicating research findings to policy makers and the public through consultancy, policy papers, exhibitions and displays, seminars and public lectures, library and archive services, publications and new media. It will additionally provide facilities and support for community based and visiting overseas researchers. It will develop and pursue a research agenda based on priority national research and policy needs and communicate information and analysis based on high quality research outcomes.

our mission

The Cook Islands Centre for Research is a joint venture between the Cook Islands Government and the University of the South Pacific. We are based at the USP Campus in Avarua and we carry out the following activities:

Cook Islands Government crest
University of the South Pacific logo
  • Conducting funded research
  • Publishing articles, books and reports
  • Facilitating research for government departments and non-government organizations
  • Ensuring that research findings are widely distributed
  • Teaching research methods through a Pacific, and in particular a Cook Islands, perspective
  • Hosting the Ron Crocombe and Don Marshall Archives
  • Holding seminars, workshops and conferences
  • Hosting visiting scholars and PhD students from around the world
  • Training graduate and postgraduate researchers in all fields for Masters and Doctorate study




Professor Heather Worth was appointed as Director of the Centre in 2022. She is an international expert in the social aspects of gender, sexual and reproductive health in the Pacific. She has led large teams of researchers and has been recognised for her work in building research capacity across the region. Her research has had considerable impact on policy and practice in the Pacific.  She has had research grants totaling over $15 million and has over 180 publications, including eight books.


Senior Research Fellow

Hilary has extensive experience in research, evaluation, policy and development practice in the Pacific region. Her research focuses on social inequality relating to gender equality and social inclusion, sexual and reproductive health and social protection. She is a Canadian citizen and Permanent Resident of the Cook Islands.


Adjunct Professor

Adjunct Professor John Hay has over forty years’ experience in academia, the private sector and governmental organisations. His work has focused on bringing an interdisciplinary approach to the environmental sciences as well as to technical and policy-relevant assessments and guidance, especially in relation to climate variability and change


Senior Research Fellow

Merita is of Cook Islands Maori and New Zealand Maori heritage, currently working as a research fellow at Te Puna Vai Marama. She has previously worked in government and non-government roles in the Cook Islands, most recently consulting on the review of the Cook Islands National Sustainable Development Plan 2016-2020. At TPVM she conducted research on knowledge and use of climate and weather information and services, co-authored a paper on the Cook Islands response to COVID19, and is currently conducting research on gender and governance in the Cook Islands and public experience and use of Cook islands public services.


Research Administrator

Frances Niuloa Little was the Director of AUT International at Auckland University of Technology and prior to that, International Marketing Manager at UNITEC.  She completed a Bachelor of Education at University of Auckland, a Graduate Diploma of Education Management at UNITEC and completed the Management and Leadership in Education programme at Harvard Graduate School of Education. She is working with Te Puna Vai Mārama to setup an International Programme for USP Cook Islands.


Research Assistant

Lauren is a research assistant for Te Puna Vai Marama through New Zealand NGO Volunteer Service Abroad. Her undergraduate and graduate research has spanned the areas of sport & cultural studies, environmental sociology and the aged care sector. In this role, she has conducted background research for projects on the topics of cervical cancer management , gender and climate change and is currently involved with research into public experience and use of Cook Islands public services.


Research Officer

Sieni has joined TPVM as a research officer. She has extensive experience in the private and public sector of the Cook Islands. Her tourism background has strengthened her work in tourism destination development, management and advocacy. Sieni has also been involved in tourism research with Cook Islands Tourism and other Universities that has contributed toward the development of a sustainable tourism policy framework including evidence based programmes. Sieni is of Maori Cook Islands descent and understands the value of meaningful engagement with key stakeholders especially the community.


Research Officer

Selane has graduated from Victoria University with a Bachelor of Science majoring in Psychology and has joined TPVM as a Research Assistant. She has a background experience working in the Statistics field, particularly in the survey development, survey management and data collection areas. Selane is currently doing a Postgraduate Diploma in Psychology with Massey University, hoping to achieve a Masters qualification. She aspires to work in the Mental Health field in the Cook Islands and is passionate about research that centers Cook Islanders. In her spare time, she volunteers for Korero o te Orau as a Program Lead and with Nui Rarotonga, assisting with their antenatal classes.

Headshots: Charlize Tuara www.charlizetuaraphotography.com