We Can't Go Back But We Can Look Back and Learn
This weeks environmental column was written by Te Ipukarea Society executive member June Hosking. Te Ipukarea Society is a non governement environmental organisation established in 1996
When I was a young girl in the 1960s Rarotonga's lagoon was our playground in paradise. Muri beach was a wide sandy area where horse races took place. Andrew's late Uncle Sonny recalled with much excitement, racing from Muri to Paringaru then carrying on through the stream to head home. I searched horse racing photos online recently, just to check my memory. Photos show even more horses than I recall, racing side by side. There's not enough clear sand to attempt that now.
In 1970 we moved to Fiji for Dad's job and sixteen years passed before I was able to see Rarotonga again.
The first few days in Raro I was in disbelief. What came to mind was the song my oldest sister Rosalyn wrote all those years back.
'Raro will no longer be a peaceful island on the sea, trucks and cars will fill our land and problems will be at hand...'
An eleven year old child correctly predicted the future! I'm not ashamed to say, I cried that first week back in Raro.
More recently I asked what happened to the broad stretch of white sand in Muri and was told that truck loads were taken for the airport development. Too much for nature to replace in a hurry.
In the early 1970s a scientific report recognised Muri's fragile ecosystems and recommended it be kept as a place to visit and enjoy, but not a place for tourist accommodation. Imagine how different Muri would be today had that report been taken seriously. Millions have been spent in trying to slow down the degeneration of the lagoon, to no avail. Unfortunately, it seems the lure of money speaks loudest.
At the Cook Islands Careers Expo in June2023 I felt like David facing four pro mining rich Goliaths with booths well staffed, giveaways, extra tables and chairs for visitors, large screen and sounds whilst our Te Ipukarea Society booth, run by two volunteers and one staff member, showed videos on a laptop with a small speaker.
We are already starting to see pro mining money being put into our community through sports teams and art studio sponsorships, , and now they are a major sponsor for our most iconic annual culture festival “Te Maeva Nui”. No doubt everyone loves a bit of money, but not all things that glitter are gold. Is our country selling our soul to big business?
It's a good thing I know how the David and Goliath battle went, so I continue to speak boldly from the heart. As the saying goes, 'they don't care how much you know until they know how much you care.'
I know a number of the people staffing the neighbouring seabed mining booth, and am sure they care about our Marae Moana as much as I do. But when push comes to shove, how much sway will they have? If they see that DSM isn't such a good idea after all, will the powers that be listen to their recommendations to pull out?
Will the government have the courage to reveal the whole truth of findings from seabed exploration?
If findings show that mining will cause irreparable damage to ecosystems will the government have the conviction to say NO to Deep Sea Mining?
Sadly, we can't go back to those days of wide white sand beaches and thriving lagoons, but we can look back and learn from our and others mistakes.