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 post-graduate research training, 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 goal of Te Puna Vai Mārama is to become the prime research facility in the Cook Islands with responsibility 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
  • Training graduate and postgraduate researchers in all fields for Masters and Doctorate study
  • Teaching research methods through a Pacific, and in particular a Cook Islands, perspective
  • Conducting funded research
  • Facilitating research for government departments and non-government organizations
  • Hosting the Ron Crocombe and Don Marshall Archives
  • Holding seminars, workshops and conferences
  • Hosting visiting scholars and PhD students from around the world
  • Publishing articles, books and reports
  • Ensuring that research findings are widely distributed




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


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. Prior to coming to the Cook Islands, she completed an evaluation internship in the NGO sector and held a research assistant position with Massey University.

Headshots: Charlize Tuara www.charlizetuaraphotography.com