Facebook Twitter
TIS Cook Islands
Above: Coastal protection is critical for low lying atolls like Fakaofo

Tokelau is located 500km north of Samoa and 600km north-west of Pukapuka, where the Cook Islands and Tokelau share a common marine boundary. In fact Pukapuka is twice as close to Fakaofo in Tokelau as it is to Rarotonga. The three atolls of Tokealu are very similar to our own norther group atolls. The atoll nation has a population of about 1500, and a total land area of only 10 sq.km. It is regularly serviced twice a month by a 2 day voyage from Apia, Samoa, and is the first nation in the world to be powered 100% by renewable energy.
In early October Te Ipukarea Society’s Kelvin Passfield travelled to Tokelau from Samoa as a part
of a larger consultation team travelling for the GEF Small Grants Programme. The team travelled on the cargo vessel Fa Sefulu, for consultations on Faka’ofo, Atafu, and Nukunono, the 3 atolls that make up Tokelau. The purpose of Kelvin’s travel was for discussions related to the Australian Government funded Global Environment Facility Small Island Developing States Community Based Adaptation (GEF SIDS CBA) climate change project. This is implemented by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), and being delivered by Te Ipukarea Society in Tokelau, Niue, and the Cook Islands. The consultation team were ferried ashore at each island for consultations while the cargo was being offloaded, which afforded 6 to 8 hrs on each atoll for discussions and site visits.
Formal meetings were held with the Taupulega (council of elders) on each atoll where Kelvin explained the project and asked for some ideas about possible projects for Tokelau with the available funds. With only about NZ$60,000 available, a decision needs to be made on whether one larger project on one atoll is undertaken, or whether smaller projects could be undertaken covering all atolls.
Possible project ideas discussed related to ecosystem based foreshore protection, improving access to safe drinking water, and improving the quality of the soil to build resilience to the impacts of climate change. There was also a presentation by two biogas experts from Apia on a proposal for a Waste-to-Energy biogas pilot project for Tokelau. This would be based on utilising pig manure and a biodigester to produce methane gas for cooking. The experts, Mr. Usufono Fepuleai, and Ms. Sose Utu-Fepuleai have a successful biogas plant in Apia at the Youth With a Mission (YWAM Campus) that they use for demonstration purposes. Cook Islander Tom Wichman has trialled biogas plants using pig waste in Rarotonga in the past, but apparently there are none functioning currently, possibly due to the down turn in commercial piggeries.
The final decision on which projects will be implemented in Tokelau is dependent on the three Taupulega of Tokelau, with the decision expected early November.
Te Ipukarea Society would like to extend our sincere appreciation to the UNDP Samoa Office, and in particular GEF Small Grants Programme Sub Regional Coordinator Filifilia Iosefa, as well as the Tokelau Apia Liaison Office, and Loia Tausi form the Tokelau Environment Department, for assisting with logistics for the travel. Funding was provided by Australia through the GEF Small Grants Programme Global Grants.


Read more news
The seaweed washes ashore where it rots and stinks, not a good impression for tourists. Physical removal of seaweed in Muri Lagoon is just a short term solution. The root cause of the nutrients feeding the seaweed need to be addressed

There has been considerable debate about the impacts of tourism on the Cook Islands these few weeks in the local media. We thought it may be timely to document some of Te Ipukarea Society’s activities, and the activities of others, that attempt to reduce the impact of tourism on our little paradise.
As an environmental NGO Te Ipukarea are not antitourism, and in fact tourism and its impacts on the environment are among the reasons we were formed back in 1996. However we are supportive of a more sustainable approach to the development and operations of the industry. Until such an approach is adopted, we agree with Sel Napa’s recent comments that any growth of tourism in its current form needs to be strictly controlled. Our infrastructure needs to catch up with our rapid increase in tourism numbers over the past 10 years, to be able to cope with it. While it is great that Government has major infrastructure projects underway, such as the water project and renewable energy, these projects do not deal with the major tourism related issues affecting our environment
Muri Lagoon is a classic example of what can happen if we do not consider the impact of tourism growth
There has been considerable debate about the impacts of tourism on the Cook Islands these few weeks in the local media. We thought it may be timely to document some of Te Ipukarea Society’s activities, and the activities of others, that attempt to reduce the impact of tourism on our little paradise.
As an environmental NGO Te Ipukarea are not antitourism, and in fact tourism and its impacts on the environment are among the reasons we were formed back in 1996. However we are supportive of a more sustainable approach to the development and operations of the industry. Until such an approach is adopted, we agree with Sel Napa’s recent comments that any growth of tourism in its current form needs to be strictly controlled. Our infrastructure needs to catch up with our rapid increase in tourism numbers over the past 10 years, to be able to cope with it. While it is great that Government has major infrastructure projects underway, such as the water project and renewable energy, these projects do not deal with the major tourism related issues affecting our environment
Muri Lagoon is a classic example of what can happen if we do not consider the impact of tourism growth on our environment. While influx of waste water from inadequate septic systems is not the only cause, there is little doubt that is a significant factor.
We appreciate that the smaller scale tourism (Air BnB type accommodation as Minister Mark Brown pointed out) generally has a lower impact on our environment and major benefits to our local economy as the money earned on these properties, generally stays in country. It is the high density tourism, where anywhere from 3 to 300 accommodation units are squeezed into small coastal sections, that is having the largest impact on our lagoon
The overflowing landfill is another issue that is getting worse, despite recent improvements in the recycling process. Te Ipukarea Society has been promoting a container deposit (refund to consumers upon return of the empty bottles) system for more than 10 years, in order to generate revenue to be able to ship our glass and plastics offshore. We are very pleased to see some promising progress in the past 12 months with support from WATSAN for the progress of the sustainable financing mechanism. This is referred to as an Advanced Disposal Fee (ADF), and will include the refund deposit and a small sum for recycling costs. WATSAN is also working on a policy to ban polystyrene imports for takeaway foods.
Te Ipukarea Society also regularly submit comments on the Environmental Impact Assessments for coastal tourism developments. Typically, our written submissions are that these developments should not proceed unless they can show minimal impact on our environment. These impacts usually relate to sewage disposal and the impact of rock wall revetments on our foreshore. Despite our submissions, invariably the Rarotonga Environment Authority, consisting largely of Members of Parliament from both sides of politics, approve the developments to proceed.
Some tourism operators, including some of the larger resorts, are making a real effort to ensure their hotels, tours and restaurants have minimal impact on our island. For example, they ensure their sewage systems are fully compliant with the regulations, and have an efficient recycling and composting system operating within their own premises, reducing what they have to send to the landfill. A growing number actually make a contribution to the work that Te Ipukarea Society does for our environment, through the Mana Tiaki programme. Unfortunately, others are blindly continuing to operate in favour if their bottom line, the money, with insufficient regard for our Ipukarea. For example, we know several major resorts are digging holes where they burn and bury
their rubbish, rather than pay for it to be taken to the landfill. The managers know they would never get away with that approach in Australia or New Zealand, but here they can, so they do! What is needed is more time, effort and money being channelled by these operators into reducing their current impact on our Little Paradise before we go about encouraging additional numbers of tourists to visit. Hopefully these errant operators can be encouraged to follow the lead of those operators who are utilising a more “island friendly” way of doing business.


Read more news