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Te Ipukarea Society Brochure 2017-18

Te Ipukarea Society held their AGM on Tuesday 10th July at the USP complex. The evening started with a presentation on the team’s recent work trip to Suwarrow, which was delivered in a documentary form. The Suwarrow documentary included footage of the rat eradication work that took place on Suwarrow along with the bird surveys that were conducted on each of the atolls. It also highlighted the current waste issue Suwarrow is facing with washed up rubbish and FADS now encroaching onto its shores.

The screening of the documentary brought in a number of interested members from the community who wanted to gain a better idea of not only what conservation work was involved but to also visually see what Suwarrow has to show, with its scenery and biodiversity. There was a lot of interest from the audience on the video, and the eradication team fielded a number of questions. If you missed the documentary this has now been uploaded to YouTube and can be viewed through the following link https://youtu.be/pASTAizIxfk

The remainder of the evening comprised of the TIS 2018 AGM. It started with Senior Project Officer Liam Kokaua delivering a thorough overview of the president’s report on behalf of Ian Karika, with a summary of activities TIS got up to between 2017-18. This President’s report can be viewed on our TIS web page www.tiscookislands.org

The election of the new committee members was also completed and resulted in an exciting TIS executive board for 2018. With the passing of Makea Karika Ariki Dame Margaret Karika a new patron for TIS was needed. As a result of nominations, TIS now has two patrons for 2018. The 2017-2018 president of TIS, Kamoe Mataiapo, Ian Karika and Tinomana Ariki, Tokerau Munro. A new president was then required, and this position unanimously went to former TIS Vice President Teina Mackenzie. Vice President was passed onto former TIS executive member Avaiki Aperau. Secretary, is now former executive member Sabine Janneck, while the treasurer remained the same, with Marry MacDonald. Executive members saw some new exciting personal with Hayley Weeks, Patricia Tuara, Jessie Sword and Jerimiah Samuela.

Te Ipukarea Society would like to thank all that turned up to the Suwarrow presentation and AGM, and would like to congratulate all new and former members that were elected onto the executive board.

The evening finished with a meal prepared by the eradication team, made from left over Suwarrow food supplies. The team left a lot of their food for the rangers, but there was some they preferred the team took back with them. The “Suwarrow Pot Luck” dinner consisted of split pea soup (dal), brown rice, chick pea salad, and a baked bean and tinned corn beef stew. It was very well received!

If you wish to become a member or corporate member of Te Ipukarea Society please get in touch with a.smith@tiscookislands.org

2017-2018 has been a busy and progressive year for the society. There was also a sad time as we mourned the loss of our long serving Patron, Dame Makea Karika Margaret Ariki. Mama Karika had been our Patron since the society’s formation in 1996.
Over the past 13 months we have completed some major projects and commenced other new exciting projects. We have retained our 4 staff members as well as commenced the Dame Margaret Karika Environmental internship with the hiring of an intern in early 2018. We look forward to the coming year with some interesting projects and opportunities in the works. Meitaki ma’ata to our executive committee, staff, volunteers, and supporters for a successful year.
Below are brief summaries of the past year’s work under our five focal areas.
Biodiversity
Our staff have worked more closely with local schools this year, after being approached to do presentations to classes as well as help out with school tours to the Takitumu Conservation Area. Liam has begun assisting Ian with cruise ship groups which visit the TCA, which helps bring in money for the Area, as well as a little for TIS. Alanna and Liam joined New Zealand DoC again in August 2017 to conduct kakerori banding and also started learning some of the baiting tracks.
The Suwarrow team recently returned from a rat eradication exercise funded by the GEF SGP on the National Park. The team successfully conducted bird surveys on the island in between rat baiting rounds, and we will await confirmation that Suwarrow is rat-free in one or two years. In the meanwhile we have two small 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.
The Marae Moana Bill was passed in parliament on 11th July 2017, which is a huge move for conservation of both ocean and land biodiversity in the Cook Islands. Our technical director worked hard to gather support for 50 nautical mile exclusion zones around each island in the Cook Islands, and through doing this helped to convince government to increase the size of the zones from 24nm to 50nm. We have Liam Kokaua on the Marae Moana Technical Advisory Group to contribute to the development of Marae Moana policy and ensure biodiversity conservation remains a significant part of Marae Moana’s activities. We also have Teina Mackenzie on the Marae Moana Council as the NGO representative.
We have been involved in the development of the new NBSAP as contractors for the Ecosystem Services Valuation, as well as stakeholders providing comment during the development of the new document, which will guide biodiversity activities for the next 4 years.
Alanna won the Miss Cook Islands pageant and travelled to China to participate in Miss World. She used these opportunities to showcase the conservation efforts on the Rimatara lorikeet and the work she has done at Te Ipukarea Society with the Tanga’eo. She has continued her research into Petrels and Shearwaters in the Cook Islands, placing acoustic bird recorders on different mountain peaks, and most recently on Mangaia. She also attended a UNESCO Biosphere reserve meeting on behalf of TIS.
Liam was able to spend two weeks conducting whale research in the Great Barrier Reef, increasing his and TIS’ capacity in cetacean research. He also commenced a postgraduate certificate in Ridge to Reef Sustainability, funded through the Ridge to Reef Programme. Also through the R2R programme, Liam participated in two surveys of the endemic Ara Pepe plant, one in Mauke and one in Atiu.
Climate Change
Our first climate change project, Weather Stations in Schools, has kicked off with the majority of outer island schools now recipients of weather stations and having received trainings in how to read these instruments and make climate records for their islands.
Our second climate change project, focussing on building resilient coastlines in the Pacific focusses on providing natural or soft solutions to coastal erosion and other climate related issues in the Northern Cook Islands. We also have other projects in Niue, and Tokelau. This is the society’s first project to span beyond Cook Islands borders, and has brought in valuable income which helps us maintain our work in the Cook Islands.
Eco-Sustainable Development
Alongside the Cook Islands Aronga Mana, we took the Government to court for the signing of the Sustainable Fisheries Partnership Agreement with the EU.
The initial court case was from 3-6th July 2017 and after a number of months we were informed that we were unfortunately unsuccessful. It was agreed between TIS and the Aronga Mana to go to the Court of Appeal in May 2018, and we are currently waiting on the results. We continue to encourage our people to learn more about the status of our fish stocks and to practice or purchase from sustainable fisheries. Our team attended the WCPFC Scientific Commission meeting held in RArotonga in July 2017. The use of FADs by purse seiners continues to be a major contributor to the decline in fish stocks and other marine life.
Tourism – we continue to advocate for a sustainable tourism industry. We are currently working as the TA for the development of a Tourism Acreditation Scheme for tourist accommodations and businesses, which is funded by the Ridge to Reef Project.
Seabed Mining – we have been involved in interviews and providing comments with a number of researchers and during stakeholder consultations. We continue to educate the public about seabed mining through our information brochures particularly at events such as environment week.
Our team, especially Kelvin has continued the reviewing of EIAs distributed by NES
Our Mana Tiaki programme has grown to include a number of businesses on Rarotonga, and includes the placement of donation boxes at local businesses such as bars, cafes, department stores, and hardware stores. Mana Tiaki income for our projects has increased considerably since 2016.
Liam became a youth ambassador for Sustainable Development on the global stage when he was invited to the UNESCO Education for Sustainable Development Conference in Paris. This followed a full day workshop he ran in February 2018 which had 38 high school youth attend to learn more about ESD.
On a very positive note, through publishing an appeal on behalf of the Cook Islands Voyaging Society, one of our BirdLife donor contacts donated 20,000 NZD to CIVS to go towards repairs of their hull which was fire damaged in 2017. We are happy to support CIVS as they are an advocate for both marine conservation and sustainable ocean transport, while maintaining Cook Islands Maori cultural values. The donors also gave 10,000 NZD towards the Dame Margaret Environmental Internship.
Waste Management
Our GEF SGP funded waste management programme has come to an end. In the end all schools except one in the Cook Islands received worm farms and composters. They also received training by competent TIS staff on how to manage these facilities and how they benefit the environment. Through the GEF project we also focussed on awareness raising of waste issues, promoting safe disposal of E-waste, and promoting biodegradable containers and straws which have become vastly more popular over the past 2 years. Our staff will continue doing checks on the worm farms and composters.
Through our Mana Tiaki programme we have also been working with Pacific Resort to help them reduce their environmental impact through presentations and judging their mana tiaki inter-department staff competition.
We organsied a public screening of ‘A Plastic Ocean’ which highlights the dire situation of plastic marine debris currently filling our oceans, which was well attended.
Our Waste Management project won the Energy Globe national award for the Cook Islands for 2017.
We will continue to advocate for better waste management solutions in the future.
Youth
As mentioned previously, we have greatly increased our presence at school and in youth engagement in general this year. This includes presentations to classes on topics such as Endangered Species, Waste Management, and Biodiversity Conservation. Our Waste Management and Weather Stations Project specifically focussed on youth in Schools throughout the Cook Islands. We have also been active in public events which target youth such as the annual Environment Week.

Te Ipukarea Society joined with the expertise of BirdLife international and support of the National Environment Service, have just recently returned back from a rat eradication and bird surveying project on Suwarrow. Suwarrow is the Cook islands first national park and is homed to sharks, turtles, rays and of course thousands of breeding seabirds.

This is the 3rd attempt Te Ipukarea Society have made to remove the invasive rodents (Pacific rat Rattus exults) from the atoll since 2003. The last baiting occurred in 2013, and at that time rats were successfully removed from Anchorage, the main Motu where the National Environment Service (NES) rangers are based, and also where the visiting yachts anchor. Unfortunately a few survived on Motu Tou and Motu Kena.

One of the reasons it was thought that the 2013 operation on Motu Tou had failed was because of the very high numbers of coconut crabs there that love eating the rat bait. So this time, the team planned to apply more than double the amount of rat bait as last time, in the hope that there would be plenty for both the rats and the crabs. Crabs are totally unaffected by the rat bait, though it is recommended that humans do not eat the crabs for at least 6 months after a baiting operating such as this.

The eradication work required a lot of physical strength, with the clearing of bush to create tracks to make an island sized grid. This cleared grid then allowed for the rat baiters to track down each line to manually hand throw rat bait in a circular motion evenly across the island. This whole procedure took about 17 days in total.

Once the first round of bait was laid the eradication team left the baited motus for 10 days to allow for the poison to take effect.

During this 10 day period bird surveys were conducted on each of the islet. Sooty terns and Frigate birds were nesting and present in great numbers during the survey, with the sooty terns reaching numbers in the tens of thousands. Brown boobies, white terns and red tailed tropic birds were also nesting in healthy numbers across the islets. Interesting finds included spotting the masked boobie, and the globally threatened bristle thighed curlew which breeds in Alaska and spends its non breeding season on tropical pacific atolls.

Visiting each of the islets however, also highlighted the impacts of plastic waste and FADS that are now littering our oceans and islands. On a number of motus, plastic waste would trail along the high tide mark and would be scattered throughout the islet from past storm surveys. 50 + FADS were also spotted either washed up on land or tangled on coral heads.

On completion of the bird surveys the team returned back to Motu Kena and Motu Tou to distribute the final round of bait along each grid line. The second round was required in case the first round of baiting was affected by external circumstances such as rain or any inconsistences that may have occurred in the first round of baiting.

A week later rat traps were put out across Motu Tou to give some insight as to whether the eradication was a success. Having been left over night and checked the next day, it was definitely a sigh of relief to have not caught one rat in any of the traps, giving some level of confidence that the eradication was a success.
It will be a years time before the team are certain the eradication project was a success by re trapping. And if successful, history would have been made with Suwarrow being named rat free for the first time since human habitation.

learning how to use various weather instruments such as this rain gauge Bird recorded deployed on cliff facing edge at the top of lake Tiriara

Project office Alanna Smith was in Mangaia late March (2018) carrying out a couple of school training programmes and conducting the first ever acoustic sea bird surveying project.
Mangaia School students were able to receive the SRICC funded learning by doing weather stations programme where students were introduced to a range of different weather instruments, and were taught what each instrument measures, how to correctly read each instrument, how to record the data and then how to interpret collected data. The objective of this project is so that school students can become more aware of those changes occurring in their micro climate and potentially be able to forecast the likes of approaching depressions with the given instruments.

A refresher course was also conducted on the schools worm farm and compost bin, to remind the students about what organic waste can be disposed into each unit and what the benefits are of composting. Mangaia school has had their worm farm and compost bin for 2 years now, which TIS installed thanks to funding from the GEF Small Grants programme.

An acoustic bird survey was also carried out with the help of TIS member Jason Tuara. The survey targets sea birds such as petrels and shearwaters. In the past Black winged petrels, wedged tailed shearwaters and tropical sharewaters have been recorded on Mangaia. The aim of this project is to obtain updated information and identify whether these prior species found on Mangaia are still present today or potentially new species maybe present. The recorder was deployed on the top of the cliff facing edge at lake Tiriara and has been set to record ambient noise 4 hours a day in the late evenings when petrels and shearwaters are likely to be active. The recorder will be picked up in a months time for data analysis

Rattus rattus (Ship Rat) Photo: Gerald McCormack An example of a rat-specific bait station, from India

Are you having problems with rats? Rats can be very annoying. They can destroy your garden and crops, spread and carry a whole lot of diseases and just the presence of these pests in your household could make your nice comfortable home feel very unpleasant to live in. Rats have been effectively controlled in the Takitumu Conservation Area for nearly 30 years, using rat poison. However, if you are thinking of trying to control the rats in your location using poison, there are a few precautions that you need to take.
Te Ipukarea Society has some experience with rat bait, mainly through our involvement in the 2013 rat eradication project on Suwarrow. This experience has led us to use “Island Bait” rat poison. This is manufactured by Bell Laboratories Inc. in the USA. Bell Laboratories Inc. is a world leader in rodent control technology. The “Island Bait” rat poison is specially designed to be effective and suitable for tropical island climate weather, making an ideal solution for us here in the islands. This particular bait type comprises a base matrix of cereal grains which are bound together with sugars and synthetic compounds that make it attractive and highly palatable to rats. And while the bait should be applied in situations that it remains dry, the matrix is resistant to some moisture, but will degrade following prolonged exposure.
The poison affects the ‘vitamin K’ cycle in mammals and results in haemorrhage (internal bleeding) of internal organs. Not all animals are equally susceptible i.e. rats are highly sensitive to it whereas we humans are not (it is still recommended to reduce exposure through use of gloves).
In a domestic environment rat bait should be contained (and not scattered loosley on the ground) so that dogs, chickens, stock and children etc. cannot access it. The best way to use this bait is by placing it inside bait stations, that the rats can get in, but larger animals cannot squeeze in. This can be achieved by placing the bait within a piece of drain pipe (ideally with the size of which only rats can enter), or an ice cream container with a cut out tunnel. Ensure the bait station is secured in an area that is away from non targeted species, and where rats are active. Relatively small amounts of bait should be dispensed into a bait station at a time (no more than a cup or 250gms).
Sensitivity of animals to the bait differs between taxonomic groups and species, for example, rats are more sensitive than mice, some birds are more sensitive than others. “Island Bait” will be effective against all three species of rats we have here in the Cook Islands – The Polynesian Rat (Rattus exulans), Ship Rat or Black Rat (Rattus rattus), and the largest of the three, the Norwegian Rat or Brown Rat (Rattus norvegicus). The Bell Lab “Island Bait” rat poison will be used to eradicate the remaining population of polynesian rats on Suwarrow Island in May this year.
Predators like cats, chickens and dog could get secondary poisoning by consuming a contaminated rat. However, it is not serious and can be treated with vitamin K.
A few precautions to be followed if you are using rat poison are:
• Wear protective equipment such as gloves when you handle the bait. Brodifacoum is a slight skin irritant and a mild eye irritant.
• Small children should be closely supervised while bait is still present on the ground.
• Land crabs and chickens active in the area should not be eaten for a minimum of six months after bait is applied.
• Pigs should be removed from the area so that they do not have access to bait and should not be let loose or returned to the area for at least six months after bait application.
• If young children or domestic animals do somehow get poisoned by rat bait, Vitamin K is an effective antidote.
If you have any questions and inquiries or you are interested in using rat poison, come and see us at the Te Ipukarea Society office down in Tupapa next to Bamboo Jacks for some more advice. We do have limited quantities of Bell Lab “Island Bait” rat poison for sale, This is not to create profit but will be used to purchase a new round of bait to use for our upcoming work on Suwarrow this year, as there is a small chance that by May some of the bait will begin losing its effectiveness, as our current stock was meant to be used on Suwarrow in September 2017.

Liam questions Mr. Matthews via video-conference Liam and some fellow YPL delegates at Kīlauea

TIS project officer Liam recently travelled to the Hawaiian Islands to participate in the 2018 Young Pacific Leaders (YPL) Conference on the 15-18 January. The conference is hosted jointly by the East-West Center which is based at the University of Hawai’i, and the United States Department of State.
The main purposes of the workshop for delegates were as follows –
1) Strengthen their leadership capacity,
2) Enhance their knowledge of opportunities for economic and civic development in the region,
3) Deepen their knowledge of the U.S. partnership with the Pacific, and
4) Build a supportive network of like-minded change-makers across the region.
The conference was jam packed with a number of sessions which revolved around a range of issues facing the Pacific region. The following report covers the sessions which had the most relevance to the improved sustainability of our Pacific Region:
On the first day the group was given the opportunity to participate in a video conference with Mr. Matthew Matthews, the Deputy Assistant Security, Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs. It was during this meeting Liam was able to ask Mr Matthews: “What is the United States doing to assist the Pacific Island region to address the issue of marine litter and pollution in the Pacific, noting that much of the litter found in the Pacific can be traced back to the U.S.?” Unfortunately the conference was “off the record” and for that reason his answer cannot be published!

On the second day the group travelled to Hawai’i island (also known as “Big Island”), after which the state of Hawai’i is named. While travelling to the Hilo market the leaders listened to a presentation by Margarita Hopkins, the Development Specialist for the Hawai’i County Department of Research and Development. Margarita discussed Small Island Economic Development through local products – particularly agricultural products. Hawai’i Island has a long-established and successful agriculture industry for both domestic and international export and there were many areas where Rarotonga may be able to learn from Hawai’i’s agricultural success.
Also on Big Island, the young leaders visited the Pacific Aquaculture & Coastal Resources Center (PACRC) University of Hawai’i at Hilo. Here the group observed a number of projects working to achieve more sustainable sourcing of marine resources. These included raising tilapia fish through aquaponics (the combination of hydroponics and aquaculture), raising Pacific oysters for export to the U.S. through aquaculture, and most interesting was the raising endemic Hawai’ian ornamental fish species, in attempt to address the overharvesting of these species through the acquarium trade. Many of these fish species had never been bred in captivity until PACRC initatied this project.
Their final presentation on Big Island was by the Cindy Orlando, Superintendent of Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park who talked about the work they do connecting people with national parks through education, volunteerism and philanthropy. This was followed by a visit the the majestic Kīlauea volcano, which in Hawaiʻian mythology is said to the be the resting place of Pele, the goddess of fire, and therefore one of the most sacred sites in the archipelago.
On the final day of the workshop, attendees visited the U.S. Coast Guard Headquarters at Sand Island, Honolulu. Here Liam was able to learn more about what the Coast Guard is doing to combat Illegal Unregulated and Unreported (IUU) fishing in U.S. waters. In the latter half of the day the young leaders worked on brainstorming for project ideas which they now may be able to make a reality, as the group now has access to apply for grants from the U.S. YPL grants which can fund up to US $13,750.
Liam would like to thank Te Ipukarea Society for supporting his attendance at this conference which has boosted his leadership capacity as well as increased his knowledge of what is happening in the Paific Region in the areas of environmental sustainability, economic, and social issues.

Red postman butterfly

How many Cook Islands News Readers have noticed an abundance of one particular butterfly recently? One that they had not seen in previous years? Staff at Te Ipukarea Society have noticed many of these new butterflies around their office, homes, and also up in the Takitumu Conservation Area when assisting with the work up there.
A little bit of research led us to identify this new butterfly as Heliconius erato cyrbia, commonly known as the red postman. The butterfly is here to do a special job, which is called a biological control, or biocontrol agent, and was introduced to control the invasive red passionfruit vine Passiflora rubra. The red passionfruit is an invasive vine throughout much of the southern group of the Cook Islands, it out-competes native plants, and can kill old trees by smothering them. The importation of this butterfly was enabled under a joint project by Landcare Research in New Zealand and the Cook Islands Ministry of Agriculture. The chief scientists on this project were Dr Maja Poeschko from the Ministry of Agriculture and Dr Quentin Paynter from Landcare Research.
Biocontrol agents are usually a much more effective way of controlling pests than mechanical removal (weeding and cutting) and much safer than using chemical poisons (which are often toxic). These days a very detailed and thorough environmental impact assessment must be done before introducing any biocontrol agent. A good example of a biocontrol project that went wrong, and possibly the first biocontrol agent introduced to the Cook Islands was the Mynah Bird (manu kavamani), possibly to control Coconut Stick insects (‘e’e) and paper wasps (rango patia), in 1906.

Landcare Scientist Dr Quentin Paynter came to Rarotonga in the first half of 2016 with about 80 of these butterflies, which were then bred to increase their numbers at the Ministry of Agriculture. Extensive testing was done prior to its release to make sure it didn’t pose a threat to edible varieties of passionfruit.

In an article just after the original release, Dr Paynter said there were plans to eventually release it at other islands, in particular Atiu, which has a globally recognised remnant of makatea forests that is threatened by invading red passionfruit vines, which could overtake the native forest.

Landcare Research’s weed biocontrol work in the Cook Islands is funded by New Zealand’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs

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.

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.

Kelvin and Alanna representing BirdLife at the WCPFC-SC, alongside Karen Baird (left) from Forest & Bird (BirdLife in New Zealand)

Te Ipukarea Society staff attended the West and Central Pacific Commission (WCPFC) Scientific Committee meeting which was hosted here in Rarotonga in August by the Ministry of Marine Resources (MMR). As members of Birdlife, which has observer status at the WCPFC, we were fortunate to be able to participate in this scientific forum.

This meeting is where the fishery scientists representing the various members of the WCPFC get together to agree on what scientific advice they should give to the WCPFC managers of the fisheries. The group of fishery managers meet every year in December to agree on how best to manage the various tuna fisheries in the West and Central Pacific Ocean.

Unfortunately, there is not always a consensus on what advice is put forward by the Scientific Committee, as the scientists representing the various fishing nations often have the interests of their fishing fleets influencing their input. For example, this year there was an effort to get agreement on a target exploitation level for South Pacific Albacore, but this has been deferred for another year due to no consensus being reached.

It was quite an environmentally friendly meeting, with large water bottles being used for people to refill their cups or reusable bottles, so there were no piles of empty plastic bottles for the land fill. Also there was very good use of biodegradable coffee cups and plates for the morning and afternoon teas.

Te Ipukarea Society would like to congratulate the team from MMR who have done an excellent job in organising this large meeting of scientists in the Cook Islands.

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