News Archive

Charlee McLean video address at Global Landscape Forum NYC 2019

Published 01 October 2019

Check out Te Ipukarea Society’s environmental intern giving this inspirational video address at the New York Global Landscape Forum this week! Charlee was invited to give this address following her presentation at the GLF in Bonn, Germany earlier this year.

World Oceans Day Beach Clean Up

Published 08 June 2019

Join in the World Ocean Day on Saturday June 8th from 8 AM – 12 PM at the Rarotonga Sailing Club for the Beach Clean Up Mission.

We will be targeting Motu of Muri lagoon, in particular the seaward side, to remove all rubbish from big to microplastics. Everyone is welcome and sacks are provided. Bring your own water bottle, reef shoes, insect repellent, gloves and passion for our beautiful lagoon. Transport to the motu is provided and there will be prizes, a sausage sizzle and some drinks afterwards!

President's Report 2018-2019

Published 23 May 2019

2018-2019 has been another busy year for the society with a lot of project activity and changes happening as well. I have enjoyed my first year as President of the Society and have appreciated the support and enthusiasm of the executive committee, most of whom were newly appointed at the 2018 AGM.

Earlier this year we bid farewell to two staff members Liam Kokaua and Alanna Smith, both of whom left to complete postgraduate studies. We wish to thank them both for their dedication and hard work and we look forward to Alanna’s return to the fold towards the end of this year. We were very pleased to welcome a new Project Officer Kate McKessar and have also employed two more young Cook Islanders as environmental interns, thanks to the Dame Margaret Karika Internship, now funded through our Mana Tiaki fundraising efforts.

Below are brief summaries of the past year’s work under our five focal areas.

We were very proud of Jacqui Evans for winning the prestigious Goldman Environment Prize in April 2019 for her tireless work with the Marae Moana marine park. This has thrown an international spotlight onto the innovative approach towards conservation of both ocean and land biodiversity in the Cook Islands.

Te Ipukarea Society was involved in the first two years setting up the Marae Moana, with the support of Ocean’s Five, crucially helping to convince government to increase the size of the zones from 24nm to 50nm. This past year, Liam has continued to sit on the Marae Moana Technical Advisory Group and I have sat on the Marae Moana Council, both of us having been elected as the Cook Island NGO representatives. Our presence at these meetings ensures we can contribute to the development of policy and ensure that biodiversity conservation remains a significant part of Marae Moana’s activities.

Throughout January – April 2019 our staff had several opportunities to assist and learn from shark researcher Jess Cramp on her shark tagging trips in Rarotonga. We support and commend Jess on her work to protect our sharks, which spans back to her work in getting the Cook Islands declared a shark sanctuary in 2012.

Following on from the 2018 Suwarrow rat eradication exercise, we have continued to work on two related 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.

Climate Change
Our first climate change project ‘Learning by Doing’ funded through the SRIC-CC, was completed in July 2018. Pukapuka and Nassau were the final two schools in the Pa Enua to be given weather stations and trainings on how to read these instruments and make climate records for their islands.
Our second climate change project, focusing on building resilient coastlines in the Pacific is also almost complete. The project focuses on providing natural or soft solutions to coastal erosion in Aitutaki and Tokelau plus working with organic farmers in Niue.

Eco-Sustainable Development
In October 2018 we were pleased to learn that the Court of Appeal had upheld the claim by Te Ipukarea Society and the Aronga Mana of Te Au O Tonga against the Government, regarding the European Union agreement for purse seine fishing in Cook Islands waters. The Government was found to have breached its domestic and international legal obligations in several key areas. The Government has elected to appeal this decision to the Privy Council in England. We are currently awaiting the date of hearing to be set. We are very grateful to the financial support to fight this case from both local and overseas supporters through donations and fund raising, plus the assistance from the law firm LeeSalmonLong.

In April 2019 we launched an initiative for sustainable tourism called the Mana Tiaki Eco-Certification programme. It is a joint initiative between Te Ipukarea Society, Cook Islands Tourism Corporation and the Cook Islands Tourism Industry Council. This green accreditation scheme offers local businesses an opportunity to celebrate the things they are doing right when it comes to the environment, and a pathway to best practice for those wanting to do more.

The Society continues to be actively involved in Seabed Minerals Sector consultation and awareness raising. Together with local NGO Korero te Orau, we jointly commissioned a legal opinion on the draft Seabed Minerals Bill, which made several recommendations. This legal opinion formed the basis of our submission on the draft Bill in February 2019. We continue to educate the public about seabed mining through our information brochures and have run a series of newspaper articles on key issues.

Waste Management
In mid 2018 we commenced on a new campaign called ‘Plastic Battle’. We were fortunate that SPS (Save Philippines Seas) provided much of the promotional information for this free of charge. The campaign works through partnership with business establishments, promoting alternative sources of drinking water through refilling stations, or by upscaling bottled water sold to 1 litre sizes and above. In early 2019 the Society ran a promotion selling reusable, insulated stainless steel bottles, which has been a great success with over 90% of the stock sold.

Our GEF SGP funded waste management programme has come to an end. In the end all schools in the Cook Islands received worm farms and composters. Our staff will continue doing checks on the school worm farms and composters this year. Going forwards we are currently developing a proposal on changing behaviours towards waste management in the Pa Enua and will be seeking funding for this through the Global Environment Facility small grants programme. We will continue to advocate for better waste management solutions in the future and we regularly run articles on waste management issues in the newspaper.

We have continued to engage with youth this year including presentations to schools on a range of topics.
Staff teamed up with the Eat Less Plastic team in September 2018 as they presented to schools on the issue of marine plastics.

As previously mentioned we have been able to employ young local Cook Islander’s Jessie and Charlee as interns to provide assistance and also to extend their own knowledge and experience in local environmental issues. Our project officer Liam assisted NGO Korero o te ʻOrau in their culture-based holiday programme for Cook Islands youth. Specifically, a field trip up the Takuvaine Valley, an area which Liam is closely affiliated with.

AGM - 24 Years and Going Strong

Published 23 May 2019

Te Ipukarea Society held its 23rd Annual General Meeting on Thursday 23 May, marking 24 years since the Society was formed in 1996.

Special guest speaker on the evening was Jacqui Evans, who won the Goldman Environment Prize last month. Rather than talk about the prize itself, Jacqui chose to give a little history on how the Society came to be established. She is well qualified to do this, having been one of the founding members back in 1996 (when she was 12 years old, she said!).

Jacqui explained that the need for an environmental NGO became apparent because of the large reduction in the size of the public service, from around 3500 in the early 1990s to around 1500 after the reform process. This meant that a lot of the work that should have been completed by the Cook Islands Conservation Service (now National Environment Service) would not get done.

The Society existed as a purely volunteer organization for the first 14 years of its life, until some funds were found to start employing a part time youth coordinator for 12 months. A few years later more project funds allowed the Society to employ a Coordinator, and Jacqui was the successful applicant for that position. She remains committed to the work the Society does, and was made a life member 2 years ago, along with several other founding members. One of the strengths of the Society that Jacqui highlighted was the very sound financial management, which is reflected in the annual external audits that are conducted for presentation at the AGM.

The meeting agreed to retain the 2 patrons selected at the 2018 AGM, Kamoe Mataiapo Ian Karika and Tinomana Ariki. Re-elected were 6 of the previous 8 executive committee members. These were Teina Mackenzie as President, Avaiki Aperau as vice President, Sabine Janneck as treasurer, and Jessie Sword, Hayley Weeks, and Patricia Tuara. New executive members are Anna Rasmussen, along with long time Society supporter and another of the founding members, Jolene Bosanquet as secretary.

Te Ipukarea Society would like to thank everyone that attended the meeting and signed up on the night. We would also like to especially acknowledge our corporate sponsors and of course all our individual and family members that represent the high level of community support for the Society.

Radio NZ interview with Te Ipukarea Society about Mana Tiaki Eco Certification

Published 26 April 2019

Kelvin Passfield, Technical Director at Te Ipukarea Society speaks to Radio NZ about the new Mana Tiaki Eco Certification project.

Listen to the RNZ interview with Te Ipukarea Society

Launch of Mana Tiaki Eco Certification

Published 03 April 2019

Te Ipukarea Society is proud to announce the launch of the new Mana Tiaki Eco Certification. The launch is to be held at the Discover Marine and Wildlife Eco Centre in Arorangi on Wednesday the 3rd of April from 8.30am till 10am

TIS has partnered with Tourism Cook Islands, Ridge to Reef, and the Cook Island’s Tourism Council to develop the eco certification standards, which will operate in a similar way to the Cook Islands Quality Assured basic accreditation scheme.

Tourism operators are encouraged to apply for eco certification by demonstrating that they meet environmentally sustainable practices in their operations. Operators that meet the standards are rewarded with the recognition that this type of green accreditation can bring. Application fees will be waived for 2019!

With the growth of tourism in the Cook Islands, the protection of our natural environment is critical. The Mana Tiaki Eco certification provides a framework for best practice, celebrating and recognising those going above and beyond as well as encouraging others to take on more sustainable practices.

Come along to the launch to find out more!. Otherwise feel free to contact our team at Te Ipukarea Society’s office: phone 21144 or email

Submission on draft Deep Sea Mining Bill

Published 18 March 2019

Te Ipukarea Society made a submission on the Draft Deep Sea Mining Bill. The link to our submission can be found here:
TIS Submission to DDSMB

One of our key recommendations in the submission was that any seabed mining exploration should involve an independently selected research organization specialising in deep sea biodiversity. This is to ensure that biodiversity information is gathered and biodiversity conservation is prioritized.

The submission includes a substantial legal comment on the Draft, prepared by Catherine J Iorns Magallane, Professor in Law at Victoria University and Academic Adviser to the New Zealand Council of Legal Education. The opinion included suggestions and recommendations for changes to the Bill.

In addition, we recommend that the Technical Advisory Group (TAG) to the Marae Moana should act as the Advisory Committee at least in the early stages, until wider expertise is developed.

We would also like to add to Ms Magallane’s comments on the proposed changes to the Environment Act 2003, and the powers of the Minister and the Director for the Environment. It needs to be noted that the Director of the Environment Service is a politcal appointee, unlike other heads of ministries that come under the Public Service Commission. This means the Director may be appointed for other reasons than their abilities related to conserving the Cook Islands environment, and amounts to an additional lack of separation of powers. We feel that this is particularly dangerous when it comes to protecting our environment

We also request that the government adopt the SPC/EU Project Guidelines in relation to the adaptive management approach to deep seabed mining, i.e :

“An incremental approach to a DSM activity where impacts are uncertain, e.g., staged work programmes, that allow activities to be scaled up or down or cancelled, depending on observed results, or permitting trial mining (or validation sampling) on a small scale, rather than immediately authorising commercial-scale activity.”

We feel that there is insufficient information available on the environmental risks to allow seabed mining in our waters at this time.