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TIS Cook Islands
Mana Tiaki Strategic Areas

The Mana Tiaki campaign provides visitors to the Island the opportunity to contribute back to the Cook Islands and support conservation efforts.
All donations made by guest will go towards the upkeep of environmental projects implemented by Te Ipukarea Society.Funds will be channelled into 5 strategic areas being Climate Change, Biodiversity, Eco sustainable development, Youth and Waste Management.
How your donations have been utilised can be tracked through this web page. The Mana Tiaki team do however require your patients at this stage as the Mana Tikai web page link is still currently under construction. Because Mana Tiaki is still in its pilot programme phase, information on how donations have been utilized will become avaialable early July, once the programme has undergone a full launch.

BIG thank you to our awesome Mana Tiaki sponsors, for kick starting the programme – Air Rarotonga, Koka Lagoon Cruises, Dive Centre, Story Tellers, Raro Reef Sub.


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Taro terraces in the Takuvaine valley

A wetland is a land area that is saturated with water, either permanently or seasonally. Wetlands around the world play a very important role in keeping our Earth healthy. They are a habitat for a number of plants and animals that have adapted to living in these watery environments. Wetlands also provide many services which people take for granted, some of which will be covered in this article.

The Cook Islands are fortunate to have four types of wetlands:

• Freshwater marshes and swamps: on Rarotonga, Mangaia, Atiu, Mitiaro and Mauke.

• Permanent freshwater lakes: Lake Tiriara on Mangaia, Lake Tiroto on Atiu, and Lake Rotonui and Lake Rotoiti on Mitiaro.

• Tidal salt marsh: at Ngatangiia Harbour on Rarotonga.

• Mountain streams: on Rarotonga.

The most common use of the freshwater swamps are for the cultivation of taro. Cultivation methods of taro in freshwater wetlands include raised taro beds (pa’i taro), taro swamp (repo tavari) or irrigated taro terraces (such as those found in the Takuvaine and Tupapa valley streams). The cultivation of taro in wetlands is very important to our food security in the Cook Islands, particularly in the outer islands.

Rarotonga also hosts the only remaining tidal salt marsh in the country – the Aroko Salt Marsh in Ngatangiia. This salt marsh is different to freshwater swamps where we grow our taro, as the area is covered by salt water during high tide. The Aroko Salt Marsh provides habitat to certain marine species found nowhere else in the Cook Islands such as the Koiti Raukura (Fiddler Crab), and provide shelter and safe hatchery conditions for important lagoon fish species.

Aside from providing food in the form of taro, and a habitat for a wide variety of animal species, wetlands provide a number of other benefits to people, here are some of them:

• Many people are unaware that wetlands are important natural filters for sediments and man-made pollution, by preventing pollution from entering the lagoon. (This service should be valued now more than ever due to current issues of lagoon pollution on Rarotonga).

• Wetlands also provide protection from natural disasters such as flooding from extreme rain events. The wetlands act as a natural buffer, soaking up large amounts of water and reducing the frequency and intensity of floods.

• A number of wetland plant species are used in traditional maori medicine, such as mauku vai (water grass), ta’uri’au and tamore.

• Other services include coloring and hardening of wooden artefacts.

Unfortunately, our Cook Island wetlands have been shrinking for decades due to development and conversion into agricultural land. Many businesses and landowners fill in swampland with soil and coral rocks so they can construct buildings on the land. It is not just filling up the wetland, but also building around them can block off the natural drainage flows, rendering the wetland useless.

A ra’ui to protect the filling in of wetlands would be ideal, just as ra’ui are placed on lagoon areas, wetland areas are also vitally important to the health of our islands and people. People need to be aware of the importance of these ancient wetlands and the role they play not only in providing food, but in filtering our pollution, providing a home for biodiversity and preventing flooding.

Wetlands should be utilized for their agricultural potential as taro plantations, however people should refrain from filling in wetlands or dumping rubbish or pouring chemicals into wetlands. As many of these chemicals will end up in our taro patches, the saying goes: you reap what you sow! Lets look after our wetlands so that future generations can benefit from them.

This article comes from Te Ipukarea Society’s weekly ‘environment column’ in the Cook Islands News


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