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Te Ipukarea Society Brochure 2017-18
African Tulip Trees in the Takitumu Conservation Area, Rarotonga

The Spathodea campanulata also commonly known as the African tulip tree is a large tree that can reach 50 ft in height. Because of its beautiful red orange flowers, fast growth and relative ease of cultivation, the African tulip tree is widely utilized around the world as a decorative plant. Along with its decorative features it is also commonly used as a shade tree in parks and is frequently used as living fence posts. However looks can be deceiving when it comes to this pretty tree, as it has become a serious threat when considering the wellbeing of our indigenous biodiversity and agriculture. It has been nominated as among 100 of the “World’s Worst” invaders.

The African tulip tree is native to Central and West Africa. However it has managed to blossom its way across to the Pacific Islands including American Samoa, Fiji, Tahiti, Hawaii, Niue, Tonga, Vanuatu and the Cook Islands. Amongst some of these islands, it has become a destructive weed, invading indigenous forests along with greatly impacting agricultural production.

Within the Cook Islands the African tulip tree can be found on the islands of Rarotonga, Atiu, Mauke, Aitutaki and Manihiki. It was originally introduced to the Cook Islands as an ornamental plant. Today it is viewed as a problematic invasive alien plant, and worrying evidence from neighboring Pacific Islands suggests that the problem is likely to become much more severe if control measures are not implemented.

Controlling the spread of the African tulip tree through mechanical and herbicidal actions has proven to be very labor intensive and expensive, as experienced by our sister island countries such as Fiji. Ringbarking has also been found to be ineffective as only the above ground parts of the plant are killed. Although herbicide application can effectively kill the plant, this method has been found impractical for the Cook Islands as the African tulip tree already covers large areas of the land, as a result of the vast amount of seeds produced.

With methods to eradicate the African tulip tree falling short, one potential solution involves the introduction of microscopic insects, called galling mites (Colomerusspathodeae), which can cause the deformation of the stems and petioles of the African tulip tree, causing the tree to die. The galling mite can be found throughout the native distribution of the African tulip tree, thus it is abundant in Ghana and present in Uganda in East Africa. The galling mite is host specific to the African tulip tree, so in other words, only feeds on this plant. There has been no record of the galling mite feeding on any other plant species, making the galling mite a potential controlling agent for the Cook Islands.

An Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) has been produced on behalf of the Ministry of Agriculture for the introduction of the galling mite into the Cook Islands and published in December 2015. The environmental consequences reported within section 3 of the EIA have stated some interesting points, which highlight
• Doing nothing about the tree will result in continued invasion and a range of negative impacts to native species, medicinal plants, aesthetic values and agricultural productivity.

• Permanent reductions in the number of the African tulip trees could result in replacement by other invasive species.

The EIA then concludes that ‘the risks of introducing C. spathodeaeas (Galling mite) a biological control agent are minimal and the potential benefits to native biodiversity and agriculture are substantial.’

A robust protocol for the introduction of the galling mite into the Cook Islands has been designed and described within the EIA, stating the use of powerful microscopes to be used to ensure no contaminants (i.e other mites) are mixed in with the sample brought to the Cook Islands. Initial mass rearing will be conducted in shade house conditions by Cook Islands Ministry of Agriculture staff along with the assistance of Dr Iain Paterson from Rhodes University Biological Control Quarantine Facility, Grahamstown, South Africa (who will travel on the same flight as the shipment of mites). Monitoring of plots at its initial stages will also be set to assess the impacts of mite within the Cook Islands.

Currently the EIA for the ‘Application to introduce Colomerusspathodeae for biological control of Spathodea campanulata (African tulip tree) in the Cook Islands is open for submission. The EIA for this application can view found online on the National Environment Service page, with hard copies found at Te Ipukarea Society office in Tupapa, as well as other locations.

The African tulip tree biocontrol project is part of a $1 million plan to introduce biological controls for a number of the most invasive weeds in the Cook Islands, and is being carried out jointly by New Zealand’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Landcare Research New Zealand and the Cook Islands Ministry of Agriculture.

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

This map shows the Cook Islands EEZ, with the 50nm

Zoning is a management strategy for protecting marine areas. A healthy, thriving marine ecosystem not only improves environmental health but also boosts tourism and reinforces the Cook Islands’ commitment to sustainable development. Zoning is currently being practiced in major marine protected areas around the world and represents a commitment to preserve marine biodiversity.

At the most basic level, zoning divides a marine area up into different sections with varying levels of protection. Each zone has a specific list of activities that are permissible within that area. Typically, zones fall into three categories: protection, recreation, and commercial.

• “Protection” areas are generally off-limits to humans, allowing for the restoration of ecosystem health. Occasionally, scientific studies may be allowed in protection areas. In the Cook Islands, for example, we could have zones that prohibit large scale industrial fishing (such as long lining and purse seining), and zones that prohibit seabed mining. For inshore areas there may be gear restrictions such as no net fishing, or species restrictions such as a ban on trochus collecting.

• “Recreation” areas are generally only open to non-threatening, recreational activities such as scuba diving, snorkeling, swimming, and boating. Fishing is generally prohibited in these areas. The tourism sector can take advantage of these recreation areas.

• “Commercial” areas are generally open to business interests such as fishing boats and mining companies. The most effective way to manage these commercial areas is with an effective licensing and regulation system in place.

Though official studies of the success of zoning are still in progress, there are several indications that this management technique is effective. Marine areas split into zones have seen greater fish population sizes and larger individual fish sizes, both important for the reproductive success of a species. Zoning seems to work particularly well because it can conserve the entire ecosystem, rather than just some species.

For example, a successful zoning plan in the Cook Islands has the potential to protect the 25 species of coral, 8 species of fish, 3 species of turtle, and 3 species of whale that are present in Cook Islands waters whose populations are globally threatened. It could also help protect bigeye tuna from the impacts of fishing and deep sea mining in their spawning grounds, and conserve other stocks from large scale commercial fishing in areas that support small scale fisheries around our islands.

The future of the Cook Islands is dependent on a healthy environment, both on the land and in the sea. Recognising this, the Cook Islands Prime Minister Henry Puna announced to the world in June 2014 that there will be a 50 nautical mile “no commercial fishing” zone around the Islands included in the Marae Moana marine park. One nautical mile is equivalent to 1.85km, so this makes an impressive 92.5km zone around each island. Once this is legislated, the Cook Islands will be seen as an example for the rest of the world to follow, in implementing an effective and meaningful zoning system for management of the Marae Moana Marine Park.

This article was the first of Te Ipukarea Society’s weekly ‘environment column’ in the Cook Islands News (usually found in the Saturday edition).

Helen’s car runs on electricity created by solar power – no emissions!

John Hay and Helen Henry have had solar hot water heating in their home since its construction in 1994. After 21 Years of zero maintenance, the single panel unit finally needed replacing in 2015! Also in 2015, the couple installed a 10 panel 2.5 kilowatt DC solar system with 2kW inverted AC system to cover their household electricity needs including energy to run their new car!

In 2015 the couple replaced their petrol-fuelled car with an all-electric 2012 Nissan Leaf. According to the couple, the on-the-road cost (shipping to Rarotonga and all additional expenses) was $30,000. After two hours of charging, a fully charged battery will allow the car to travel 160km, the equivalent of driving five times around Rarotonga!

Aside from having solar-powered home and vehicle, they have converted all lighting in their home to LED lighting – which are known to use much less electricity than traditional lights. The couple also informed TIS they have a net-metering contract with Te Aponga Uira where any excess electricity generated by the panels is turned into credit which can be used when demand exceeds supply (resets annually). Through daily recording, John and Helen have been able to monitor system performance and even create graphs to show accumulated energy created by the solar panels.

We would like to thank John and Helen for sharing in their successes with solar power and for being awesome examples of using renewable energy to reduce their impact on the environment and also save money.

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

Ballast water being discharged from a cargo ship.

Te Ipukarea Society has been working with the National Environment Service and the Ministry of Agriculture to produce a biosecurity plan for Suwarrow Atoll. The plan is also relevant for all ports in the Cook Islands where boats from overseas call into. One of the pathways for marine invasive species into our marine ecosystem is through ballast water of cargo ships. A two day consultation workshop to develop the National Ballast Water Management Strategy for the Cook Islands was held in Rarotonga to help the Cook Islands plan against such invasions.

What is Ballast water? Ballast water commonly used within cargo ships and tankers that weigh over 400 tonnes, acts as stabilizers for heavy unloaded ships. Ballast water involves the pumping of water from within ports into ballast tanks within ships to compensate for weight loss from fuel and water consumption or cargo load changes. These large ships can carry millions of gallons of ballast water, which occupy an aquarium full of microscopic life forms, including animals, plants and pathogens. After ballast water is taken on board, the ship moves on to the next port. As it takes on new cargo, it must release ballast water to decrease the weight of the ship. As the untreated ballast water is released, so are the organisms. The result is the introduction of these new species into a new environment.

These introduced species are also known as exotic species. Populations of exotic species may grow very quickly in the absence of natural predators. In that case they are called ‘invasive’.
Only few species are successful invaders, as most species are not able to survive in new surroundings due to temperature, food and salinity factors. However the species that do survive and establish a population are very hardy species that have the potential to cause major ecological and economic damage to the ecosystem.

Worldwide examples of aquatic invasive species introduced to new environments via ballast water include the case of the‘Zebra Mussel’ (Dreissenapolymorpha) – Since their introduction into the Great Lakes in the mid-1980s, zebra mussels have drastically altered ecosystems by removing suspended material from the habitat, including planktonic algae that are the primary base of the food web. Further, the fouling behavior of the mussels has resulted in billions of dollars in costs to clean underwater structures and water intake pipes.‘Cholera’ – In 1991, ballast water containing the microbe Vibrio cholera was released and infected the drinking water in Peru – one million people were infected with cholera and more than 10,000 died. Later that year, a South American strain of human cholera bacteria was found in ballast tanks in the port of Mobile, Alabama.

Fortunately the Cook Islands have yet to experience an outbreak of invasive species through ballast water discharge. Nevertheless, the chances of this outbreak occurring is still possible. For instance our very own Avatiu Harbor acts as one of our major ports for a number of cargo and tanker ships that come from New Zealand, and sometimes Tonga, Niue, Samoa and Fiji. 90% of this cargo and tanker ships that come into Avatiu harbor do not discharge ballast water as these ships are mostly off loading cargo. It is the remainder 10% of large ships however that require careful monitoring as they are the more likely culprits for introducing invasive aquatic species through ballast discharge.

Outer islands such as Penrhyn will also require careful monitoring as they will soon become a significant docking port for large purse seine mother ships to load catches of fish being brought in by smaller fishing vessels.

Currently the Cook Islands are leading the way in terms of ballast water management by having developed a ‘National Ballast Water’ legislation – the prevention of marine pollution Act 1998. Within this act it is stated that no untreated ballast water is to be discharged into Cook Islands waters.

Along with having a National Ballast water management legislation in place it is now essential the Cook Islands conducts a baseline survey across all ports within the Cook Islands to identify those aquatic species which already currently exist within local ports. This baseline survey would then assist in identifying any exotic or invasive species found from future activities. Necessary training is also now required for biosecurity staff in ballast water monitoring and management along with ensuring biosecurity staff are equipped with the proper equipment for testing water quality samples.

As a result of the two day consultation workshop, a draft strategy is now being developed and will await further comments from those who attended the workshop before being adopted.

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

The purse seine deal has caused much debate within the Cook Islans in the past 12 months, this photo is from the third anti-purse seining march on 15th April 2016

There have been a number of figures mentioned in the media on the value of the proposed European Fisheries Partnership Agreement. Some misleading letters to the editor have mentioned figures as high as NZ$9.6 million per year.

The EU Partnership agreement documents are still available online for the public to view, which is a good thing as it allows us to determine the facts.

Article 1 of the Protocol for the agreement says that the agreement will be for a period of 4 years. Elsewhere it does say that this can be extended by an additional 4 years. Which means the agreement could last for a total of 8 years.

Article 2, on the financial contribution and method of payment, clearly says there will be a TOTAL contribution for the 4 years of 2,870,000 Euros. This is equivalent to just less than NZ$4.4million, or NZ$1.1 million per year.

This is where it gets confusing, because it clearly says in the agreement this will be the TOTAL contribution. However, in other parts of the agreement there are other figures, eg Euro38,500 (NZ$64,000) per vessel per year, and a payment by the vessels of Euro 55 per ton of fish in year 1, 65 in year 2, and 70 per ton in years 3 and 4 (average about NZ$100 per ton, or only 10c per kg of fish). What is not clear is if this is a part of this TOTAL Payment, because, after all, it is TOTAL. Even if this was extra, it could result in as little as an extra NZ$300,000 per year, depending on the catch, bringing us up to NZ$1.4million per year if 400 tons were caught. And if the boats catch 7000 tons per year, this figure could go up closer to NZ$2million. But first we need to clarify what TOTAL means! Hopefully our lawyers and accountants can clarify that for us before a deal is signed!!

OK, so this is the potential benefit, between 1.1 million and NZ$2 million per year. And what is the cost?

Well, we are supposedly in the process of setting up the largest marine park in the world, nearly 2 million sq.km. of our exclusive economic zone. This is to be a multiple use marine park, where limited seabed mining and sustainable fishing, key word being sustainable, will be permitted. This has the potential to make us a world leader in marine conservation, attracting the attention of organisations and philanthropists who are concerned about our oceans. In fact, Oceans 5 have already contributed approximately NZ$1.6million to help the Cook Islands establish the Marae Moana marine park. It is probably a reasonable assumption to say that they would not be thrilled with the progress achieved to date, mainly due to the barriers put up by those only interested in the money to be gained by selling our fishery resources to foreign interests. Unfortunately the level of international financial support we could attract by taking a world leadership role in only allowing sustainable fishing in our Marine Park will have to be left to the imagination until we do the right thing as a potential leader in marine conservation. But we can get some idea from the recent donation from Leonardo DiCaprio who has just given NZ$1.5 million to the Seychelles to help them conserve their ocean space. What this country needs is some long term vision which would expand the possibilities for the future beyond the simple exploitation of our natural resources.

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

Some of the Te Uki Ou students and Fundraising Committee with their new worm farm.

Te Uki Ou School is the second Cook Islands school to receive their Hungrybin Worm Farm from Te Ipukarea Society’s Waste Management Project. The project aims to provide a worm farm and a three-tier compost bin for each school in the Cook Islands, as well as teaching the students and teachers how to make the most of these incredible compost creators. Te Ipukarea Society have not yet started visiting the schools as we are waiting for our compost bins to arrive. However the Te Uki Ou fundraising team expressed interest in having a worm farm alongside their environmentally friendly Rent-A-Plate fundraising stall at the Muri night market, so Te Ipukarea Society helped them out!

Te Ipukarea Society project officer Liam Kokaua met with the fundraising team, consisting of members of the parent committee and students on the 9th March. Liam gave them a run down on what needs to go in the worm farm and how to take care of the worms, before presenting the new worm farm to the school. Now as the kids clean the used plates and bowls, any fruit or vegetable scraps can be deposited into the worm farm rather than the bin. Once the fundraising ends, the worm farm can be taken to Te Uki Ou School and TIS staff will be happy to do a second training for the wider school and staff.

The worm farms and compost bins are funded by the Global Environment Facility (GEF) Small Grants Fund and 10 worm farms were funded by NZ High Commission.

The ever popular PHAT Kai food stall serves their meals in biodegradable containers.

Another aspect of our Waste Management Project has been increasing awareness and availability of biodegradable containers in the Cook Islands, particularly for single-use takeaway containers sold at the Saturday Punanga Nui Market and Muri Night Market. The benefit of using biodegradable containers is that the container will break down and eventually turn into compost, compared to polystyrene containers which never break down and are filling our landfill and littering our roadsides and beaches. Biodegradable containers therefore will contribute to a healthier and more beautiful Cook Islands for both locals and tourists alike.

Te Ipukarea Society has received a stock of biodegradable containers from New Zealand and has been re-stocking the supplies of Va’ine Angaanga Toa’s stall at Punanga Nui Market (also available from the Creative Centre,) as well as giving out free samples to vendors at the Good Friday night market. TIS will also be providing these containers to the Rent-A-Plate stall at the Muri Night Market soon.

We are observing an increase in awareness and gradual shift to seeing more takeaway vendors selling food in biodegradable containers, which is great. Te Ipukarea Society is creating a list of all shops who sell these eco-friendly containers, here is who we have identified so far:
CITC Supermarket
• Vonnia’s
• Bounty Bookshop

Primefoods is also planning on stocking them shortly. Congratulations to all of these businesses for bringing in these great products, which are alternatives to polystyrene and plastic takeaway containers!

The people of the Cook Islands need to embrace biodegradable packaging or reusable containers if we are to stop polystyrene rubbish like this filling our landfills.

The Te Ipukarea Society Waste Management project has kicked off strongly. Vaine Angaanga Toa can be found at the Punanga Nui Market on Saturday morning, selling their biodegradable containers to store food in, alongside their arts and crafts. There have been a number of interested public who have either called up or visited the Te Ipukarea Society office in Tupapa asking whether we are selling these biodegradable containers (we send them to the creative centre or other retail outlets!). It is good to see that interest in more environmentally friendly takeaway containers is growing!

Remember the best way to reduce non-biodegradable waste going into rubbish bins is to simply bring a reusable container (e.g. Plastic snap-lock container) and ask the vendor to put the food straight into it!

CITC currently has in stock a range of biodegradable clam-shell containers, and have also informed TIS that they have ordered a new more moisture resistant style of container. They have also stated they are going to move the biodegradable stock to a more visible area as currently many people do not see them, great work CITC!

Te Uki Ou students provide a much-needed service at the Muri night market.

A new venture by Te Uki Ou School is aiming to not only raising funds for the school but also reduce the large amount of plastic and foam waste generated by our fast food markets.

Muri Night Market operates four nights a week, and generates a large amount of waste that ends up in our land fill. In particular foam (also known as Styrofoam or polystyrene) clam shell style containers make up a very large percentage of the volume of the total waste generated. Styrofoam has significant disposal and recycling issues. Products made from polystyrene are intended to be single-use, but do not decompose and will therefore be around forever. Discarded polystyrene products are often not placed into bins and end up as litter in the lagoon. Even if people try to do the right thing and place them in the proper bins, the polystyrene containers and cups are so lightweight that they are often blow away with just a slight breeze. If they are burnt they release toxic chemicals such as benzene. Benzene is released as a gas when polystyrene products are burned at low temperatures, such as those achieved in backyard burning situations. Benzene is a known human carcinogen and can lead to anemia. Styrene gas can also be released when these products are burned, and can cause permanent damage to the central nervous system.

The Te Uki Ou fundraising venture offers hungry market visitors an alternative to these foam containers. They can get a plate, cutlery, and serviette from the rent a plate stall. There is no fixed charge for the plates and cutlery, and customers are asked just for a gold coin donation. Funds raised will go to school projects.

The venture has gained support from Te Ipukarea Society, which has donated the marquee and the banner to advertise the service. The funds for this are coming from a Global Environment Facility (GEF) small grant project through UNDP. This project aims to reduce waste in the Cook Islands by replacing the Styrofoam containers with biodegradable containers made from bamboo or sugar cane fibre, as well as promoting the use of reusable plates and containers.

Some of the many stakeholders and special guests who attended the workshop.

On the 15th and 16th of February Te Ipukarea Society staff attend the workshop titled ‘Legally Designating Marae Moana’ or ‘Ranga ia te Papa o te Marae Moana’ at the Muri Beach Club Hotel. For those who don’t know, Marae Moana is the Cook Islands Proposed Marine Park which is currently in the process of being formalised. The workshop objectives were 1) To discuss the pros and cons of closed pelagic (ocean) zones within Marae Moana, 2) To reach agreement on aspects of Marae Moana legislation 3) To agree on next steps and timeline.

Special guests to this workshop included Jon Day and Darren Cameron from the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, Justin Rose who is working as the Marae Moana Legal Analysist, and Steve Cranwell and Karen Baird, who represented Birdlife International and NZ Forest & Bird.

From Steve and Karen’s presentations, it was particularly useful for workshop participants to learn about the potential impacts of tuna fishing and deep sea mining on seabirds. For example tuna drive the food fish to the ocean’s surface, which is then harvested by seabirds – therefore if there are no tuna, there will be no fish for the seabirds to eat! Steve and Karen spent some time with TIS staff before and after the workshop. As TIS is the Birdlife partner for the Cook Islands, it is great to continue our links with the regional BirdLife office in Fiji (Steve) and our Birdlife partner organisation in New Zealand (Karen).

The workshop progressed the Marae Moana Marine Park towards the next stage, and the report of the workshop will be released shortly.

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