A Language of Discovery

A desire to learn her native Cook Islands language is driving Koni Rairoa and her friend Lillian Arp to partner to create a language preservation app. With the support of the Pacific Business Trust, they feature in the Pasifika and Tech – Building Creative Futures event held at the Manukau Institute of Technology’s Manukau Campus. It’s part of tech-week running May 8-12 



When Koni Rairoa returned to the Cook Islands, the country of her birth, in 2000 she admits learning the local language wasn’t a priority. 


Six years later she returned to Auckland, and as the years went by, the desire to learn Cook Islands Maori grew.


“When you’re younger, you take a lot of things for granted,” she says.


“But as you get older, you want to start piecing things together to gain an understanding of where you come from. I came to realise how important the language plays a part in it, particularly as I have cousins living there who are born and bred in the Cooks but have grown up unable to speak it.”


Koni’s desire was shared by her friend Lillian Arp. Both have a mixture of backgrounds. Koni’s mother is from Rarotonga, her father from Pukapuka, with her mother’s father being of Tahitian descent. Her European links stretch back to her great, great grandfather from Scotland.


Lillian is Samoan, lived mainly in Hawaii and has travelled throughout the Pacific islands. Her background is in tertiary education, training and development and publishing.


Koni’s strengths lie in management and leadership. Both have experience in customer services, where patience and respect are essential.


Koni met the Pacific Business Trust team at an event where she gave a presentation.


The Trust was impressed enough to assist her and Lillian with mentorship and connect them with like-minded business people.


“The Trust has provided us with courses at no cost to us, including one facilitated by KPMG (partners with Pacific Business Trust),” says Koni.


“It was a cool experience, very enlightening and informative.”


It has given them both the confidence to continue the path towards developing a language app.


The courses have shed light on the many challenges when starting up a business, but both are committed and determined to see their idea become a reality.


“This project is still in the discovery stage, but we’re planning to begin the development stage before the end of the year, followed by the design then production of the app,” she says.


“We want to provide an intuitive piece of technology, customised by the user to empower them to speak their language with confidence, using it regularly in a seamless way.


“I can’t reveal too much more, but say that at a personal level, the journey has helped me discover what my passion is, and I see it helping so many other Pacific people who want to rediscover their language.”


Pasifika and Tech – Building Creative Industries


  • On Wednesday May 10 the Manukau Institute of Technology will host Pasifika and Tech – Building Creative Industries at its Manukau campus from 6.30-8.30pm at East Tamaki Road and Newbury St in Otara.


  • Pasifika and Tech is brought to you by the Pacific Business Trust, Creative New Zealand and the Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment.


  • It will provide information on how to commercialise a tech idea, opportunities to invest in and partner with people developing forward-thinking technology, and getting work experience in the industry.


  • The Tupu Tek Pasifika Internships and the PacHack – Pacific Tech Hackathon will also be launched. You’ll hear Pacific entrepreneurs and creatives using tech in the creative and Galleries Libraries Archives and Museum (GLAM) sectors, revealing the opportunities that await you.




More information:



The Pacific Business Trust is a 'not for profit' Charitable Trust set up in 1985, providing economic development services for Pacific Businesses and Business People within New Zealand.