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TIS Cook Islands
Newly elected executive committee plus staff at Te Ipukarea Society AGM 2020 President Teina Mackenzie delivers her Presidents Report for 2020

As we enter the 25th year since our Society was established in 1996, it seems that the task of caring for our Cook Islands Environment is not getting any easier. If anything, the environmental challenges we face have ramped up.

COVID 19 may have given our island home a brief respite in the past few months, but the economic impacts of the virus have not yet fully hit home. This brings with it a whole new set of environmental challenges. In the international and regional fora, the recognition of the link between the loss of biodiversity and the resulting pandemic has been made but this important fact has not yet reached our national shores.

At our AGM in May last year, our guest speaker was Goldman Environment Prize winner, Jacqui Evans. When Jacqui was later dismissed from her role managing the Marae Moana Marine Park, it became clear that her suggestion to move more slowly on seabed mining had played a significant role in the decision not to renew her contract.

In June last year, the new Seabed Minerals Bill was passed by Parliament. We put in a strong submission for changes, but few were accepted. We requested a Select Committee review the Bill, but this didn’t happen. Just this month, Parliament has now passed amendments to the same Act. Again, we put in a submission but as before, only a few of our suggestions were taken on board and again, the changes were not referred to a Select Committee. Decision-makers are receiving only one perspective and that is of
economic gain, the cost to the environment and our communities is not being discussed, which is what was hoped by requesting further consideration through a Select Committee.

On a lighter note, over this past year we have had two wonderful interns working with us, Charlee McLean and Andrea George. They were great ambassadors for the Society and they were exposed to a wide range of learning opportunities. Their enthusiastic work in schools was especially valued. We are proud of their trajectory and hope their time with Te Ipukarea Society will impact their designated career in future.

For the second year running, we have promoted Mana Tiaki Eco Certification for tourism operators, and we launched a new website (manatiaki.org). While the industry is reeling from the impacts of no tourism, many businesses have taking positive steps towards reducing their eco-footprints in preparation for the economy to reopen.

We completed two regional pacific projects last year in Niue and Tokelau under the Global Grant Project. The Cook Islands component for this project is also underway, with work to start soon on erosion control at Avana Harbour.

In August we ran a youth workshop funded by the US Consular General in NZ. The purpose was to stimulate interest in science-based careers. An impressive selection of young local professionals presented on topics from marine biology, deep sea exploration, geographic information systems, to careers in engineering and fisheries.

Following that, we also presented on careers in conservation to younger students at the junior careers expo.

In November 2019 we were excited to welcome Alanna Smith back to the fold, having completed her Masters tudies at Victoria University. She has rejoined our staff in the role of Project Coordinator.

By March 2020, our little paradise was starting to feel the impacts of COVID 19. We raised the question about whether the pandemic was a result of the world not listening to Mother Nature – and how she has sent us all to our rooms to think about what we have done. Well, we are still in our rooms, and hopefully everybody is thinking about the best way to re-engage with our fragile environment once the economy opens up again.

The war on waste has continued to dominate this year. Firstly, we spoke out against burning of rubbish, and in particular plastics. Unfortunately, it is difficult to make real traction on this issue without deterrents such as legal compliance and penalties. Now with our Plastic Free July campaign, we are continuing to raise awareness on the issue.
The amount of plastic recovered in the collaborative Muri beach clean-up for World Oceans Day in June is always an eye opener too. We continue to advocate for an advance disposal fee on imports to assist with managing waste effectively and for the legislative ban on single use plastics.

This term we began our environmental photography project at Tereora College, which will soon roll out for senior students across Rarotonga, Aitutaki and Atiu, again with funding from the US Consul in Auckland. We are excited to have also secured funding for some new waste management projects kicking off very soon.

A big thank you to all our corporate sponsors for this past year. You would have seen your logos regularly in our Newsletter as a small way of saying thank you. The impact of COVID 19 on many of our supporters has resulted in lower than normal corporate members. We fully understand, and very much appreciate those that have been able to continue their support and thank those who have supported in the recent past.

Another big thank you goes to Sarah and David Gordon, from the UK, who very
generously provided some core funds, through Birdlife International, to help cover staffing
costs for this past year. We are also grateful to the Cook Islands government for
providing us with a small business grant and wage subsidy these past few months of the

There is a group of volunteers I would like to give special mention to, being Peter Huckle
who is helping review our webpage, Jim Perkins, Tokerau Jim, Motone Productions and
Avaiki Aperau who lent their fantastic support for our Plastic Free July advert and

We continue to make progress in protecting our little paradise solely by the efforts of our diverse array of volunteers, members, the TIS Executive board, allies and powerful small staff at TIS – Thank you all for your continued engagement – it is in ALL our best interest to protect Nature so she can continue to Nurture our communities.

Meitaki Ngao e Kia Manuia,
Teina Mackenzie

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Join us for our annual World Oceans Day -Beach Clean Up mission in Muri from 8.30 AM – 12 PM at the Rarotonga Sailing Club on the NEW DATE of Saturday 27th June.

Call the TIS office for more info on 21144 or email info@tiscookislands.org

#WorldOceansDay #ProtectOurHome

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