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TIS Cook Islands

Join in the World Ocean Day on Saturday June 8th from 8 AM – 12 PM at the Rarotonga Sailing Club for the Beach Clean Up Mission.

We will be targeting Motu of Muri lagoon, in particular the seaward side, to remove all rubbish from big to microplastics. Everyone is welcome and sacks are provided. Bring your own water bottle, reef shoes, insect repellent, gloves and passion for our beautiful lagoon. Transport to the motu is provided and there will be prizes, a sausage sizzle and some drinks afterwards!

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2018-2019 has been another busy year for the society with a lot of project activity and changes happening as well. I have enjoyed my first year as President of the Society and have appreciated the support and enthusiasm of the executive committee, most of whom were newly appointed at the 2018 AGM.

Earlier this year we bid farewell to two staff members Liam Kokaua and Alanna Smith, both of whom left to complete postgraduate studies. We wish to thank them both for their dedication and hard work and we look forward to Alanna’s return to the fold towards the end of this year. We were very pleased to welcome a new Project Officer Kate McKessar and have also employed two more young Cook Islanders as environmental interns, thanks to the Dame Margaret Karika Internship, now funded through our Mana Tiaki fundraising efforts.

Below are brief summaries of the past year’s work under our five focal areas.

We were very proud of Jacqui Evans for winning the prestigious Goldman Environment Prize in April 2019 for her tireless work with the Marae Moana marine park. This has thrown an international spotlight onto the innovative approach towards conservation of both ocean and land biodiversity in the Cook Islands.

Te Ipukarea Society was involved in the first two years setting up the Marae Moana, with the support of Ocean’s Five, crucially helping to convince government to increase the size of the zones from 24nm to 50nm. This past year, Liam has continued to sit on the Marae Moana Technical Advisory Group and I have sat on the Marae Moana Council, both of us having been elected as the Cook Island NGO representatives. Our presence at these meetings ensures we can contribute to the development of policy and ensure that biodiversity conservation remains a significant part of Marae Moana’s activities.

Throughout January – April 2019 our staff had several opportunities to assist and learn from shark researcher Jess Cramp on her shark tagging trips in Rarotonga. We support and commend Jess on her work to protect our sharks, which spans back to her work in getting the Cook Islands declared a shark sanctuary in 2012.

Following on from the 2018 Suwarrow rat eradication exercise, we have continued to work on two related projects (BirdLife-Pacific Island Forum and BirdLife Young Conservation Leaders) which focus on creating strong policy and advocacy work for Suwarrow to ensure it remains protected and biosecurity is strengthened for the future.

Climate Change
Our first climate change project ‘Learning by Doing’ funded through the SRIC-CC, was completed in July 2018. Pukapuka and Nassau were the final two schools in the Pa Enua to be given weather stations and trainings on how to read these instruments and make climate records for their islands.
Our second climate change project, focusing on building resilient coastlines in the Pacific is also almost complete. The project focuses on providing natural or soft solutions to coastal erosion in Aitutaki and Tokelau plus working with organic farmers in Niue.

Eco-Sustainable Development
In October 2018 we were pleased to learn that the Court of Appeal had upheld the claim by Te Ipukarea Society and the Aronga Mana of Te Au O Tonga against the Government, regarding the European Union agreement for purse seine fishing in Cook Islands waters. The Government was found to have breached its domestic and international legal obligations in several key areas. The Government has elected to appeal this decision to the Privy Council in England. We are currently awaiting the date of hearing to be set. We are very grateful to the financial support to fight this case from both local and overseas supporters through donations and fund raising, plus the assistance from the law firm LeeSalmonLong.

In April 2019 we launched an initiative for sustainable tourism called the Mana Tiaki Eco-Certification programme. It is a joint initiative between Te Ipukarea Society, Cook Islands Tourism Corporation and the Cook Islands Tourism Industry Council. This green accreditation scheme offers local businesses an opportunity to celebrate the things they are doing right when it comes to the environment, and a pathway to best practice for those wanting to do more.

The Society continues to be actively involved in Seabed Minerals Sector consultation and awareness raising. Together with local NGO Korero te Orau, we jointly commissioned a legal opinion on the draft Seabed Minerals Bill, which made several recommendations. This legal opinion formed the basis of our submission on the draft Bill in February 2019. We continue to educate the public about seabed mining through our information brochures and have run a series of newspaper articles on key issues.

Waste Management
In mid 2018 we commenced on a new campaign called ‘Plastic Battle’. We were fortunate that SPS (Save Philippines Seas) provided much of the promotional information for this free of charge. The campaign works through partnership with business establishments, promoting alternative sources of drinking water through refilling stations, or by upscaling bottled water sold to 1 litre sizes and above. In early 2019 the Society ran a promotion selling reusable, insulated stainless steel bottles, which has been a great success with over 90% of the stock sold.

Our GEF SGP funded waste management programme has come to an end. In the end all schools in the Cook Islands received worm farms and composters. Our staff will continue doing checks on the school worm farms and composters this year. Going forwards we are currently developing a proposal on changing behaviours towards waste management in the Pa Enua and will be seeking funding for this through the Global Environment Facility small grants programme. We will continue to advocate for better waste management solutions in the future and we regularly run articles on waste management issues in the newspaper.

We have continued to engage with youth this year including presentations to schools on a range of topics.
Staff teamed up with the Eat Less Plastic team in September 2018 as they presented to schools on the issue of marine plastics.

As previously mentioned we have been able to employ young local Cook Islander’s Jessie and Charlee as interns to provide assistance and also to extend their own knowledge and experience in local environmental issues. Our project officer Liam assisted NGO Korero o te ʻOrau in their culture-based holiday programme for Cook Islands youth. Specifically, a field trip up the Takuvaine Valley, an area which Liam is closely affiliated with.

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