Dont burn change a generational habit
First raui signs up in Muri
Fighting invasive species
Dont burn change a generational habit
Rubbish bins overflowing with polystyrene containers and plastic cutlery at Punanga Nui.
The smell of smoke wafting through the quiet evening air is all too familiar. That will be the burning of household rubbish be it leaves that were raked that day, fresh lawn clippings or the rubbish pit out the back of the house that has now been filled to the brim.
It is the most common method of dealing with rubbish in Rarotonga and it has been done for generations a quick, easy and instant removal of any offending item. It can be done any day bar Sunday, any time, and regardless of wind direction or your neighbours washing. It is usually safe as most fires are small, with the offending smoke moved away from the island by a handy coastal breeze. The only limitations are those stipulated by the Public Health Act: that it must not include tyres and plastics.
It makes sense that this was once the best method for dealing with waste. Previously most waste was made of organic matter, the population was smaller so there were still smoke-free days, and there was also no other option.
This changed in the 1960s when refuse collection began in Rarotonga. The current landfill, managed by the Ministry of Infrastructure and Planning under director of waste management Tai Nooapii, opened in 2005 and recycling also began at this time. The landfill was designed to last 15 years and it holds approximately one-third of its capacity at present.
The simplest way to make the landfill last longer is to fill it less, by increasing recycling and decreasing waste production, and this is the approach the government is taking. At present a number of items can be recycled on the island. A simple and efficient system of roadside waste management has been set up, with weekly roadside collection of waste and recycling, and a number of recycling bins available across the island. Aluminium cans, plastics (grade one and two), and glass can all be recycled.
The downside to living in this tropical paradise is its geographic isolation, and this makes it financially unviable to recycle all items at present. Aluminium cans are crushed and shipped to New Zealand for recycling, but due to a low market price for glass and plastic items these are crushed and stored where room is available. As there is no industrial crusher at the landfill, glass is smashed with heavy equipment, and then used as an alternative to soil cover on the site.
Earlier this year representatives from the Ministry of Infrastructure and Planning visited New Zealand to view how small towns are managing their waste. From this a plan for waste management was made with a number of changes taking place. The waste management facility is currently being upgraded this includes extensions to the recycling building with facilities for baling all general waste, baling of plastic recycling, an education facility and no public access to the landfill itself. There are also plans to look at recycling tin cans, and other methods of using recycled glass.
Cardboard and clean plastic wrap is also recycled by the Cook Islands Trading Company (CITC) in partnership with New Zealand company Full Circle. The public is welcome to leave any of these products at the drop-off point behind Foodland. They also recycle light bulbs, particularly the energy efficient bulbs which contain mercury, which can be left at CITC Building Centre.
It seems the best method to dealing with waste here in Rarotonga and the Cook Islands as a whole is to decrease the amount produced. There are a number of easy ways to start this off that cost nothing but a little effort. The excellent National Environment Service (Tuanga Taporoporo) website (www.environment.org.ck) provides a wealth of local information about waste management, from the four Rs Refuse, Reduce, Reuse and Recycle to composting.
Composting is a hugely underutilised resource even easier than raking a pile to burn is to throw the organic waste under banana trees, where it will quickly decompose. No smoke and plentiful bananas. Other options outlined include making compost in a bin or a worm farm.
The four Rs are as simple as they sound and can easily be taken one step further. Many people now say no to plastic bags and many plastic bags are bio-degradable, but even better would be to become plastic bag free by banning the import of plastic bags like Samoa has done.
Reduce by looking at how your food is packaged and try to purchase items using less or recyclable packaging. Buy items in aluminium over glass, eg beer (a small price difference in these items would make the decision for consumers very easy to make) or one can of powdered milk over multiple UHT cartons. The internet provides endless options for innovative ways of reusing waste for profit. These can be as simple as making bead jewellery from paper, knitted shoulder bags from plastic bags, sewing purses from old cornflake packets or milk cartons to sell back to tourists, to shredding and creating compost from disposable nappies.
Community groups such as Te Ipukarea Society Ltd and Muri Environment Care Group are supporting this movement but it takes the whole community to make the difference. At Lagoon Day in Muri it was great to see the food stalls providing biodegradable cutlery and plates. One look at the rubbish bins overflowing with polystyrene containers and plastic cutlery at Punanga Nui shows that the same is definitely not happening there.
Maybe it is time to put the burning pit to rest. The support is there from local businesses and community groups - it is simply up to the people who are lucky enough to live on this beautiful island to decide if they want to.
First raui signs up in Muri
The new ra’ui signs at Muri, the first location on Rarotonga to have them installed.
A number of new raui signs have been put up in the Muri area, the first tapere at Rarotonga to do so.
Last week, members of the Koutu Nui and local acommodation owners took part in an official blessing ceremony as the raui sign was put in place on Muri beach alongside Pacific Resort Rarotonga.
The ceremony also marked the first year of the area being protected under the raui, a traditional conservation system part of an initiative to protect the areas marine life.
Large areas of Rarotonga are already in raui zones, where a complete ban on fishing is enforced by the traditional leaders of the community.
The Muri Raui will be in effect for a period of 10 years, with one year of that already passed.
Last weeks blessing was conducted by Pastor Nooana and attended by traditional leaders and community members including president of the House of Ariki, Travel Tou; president of the Koutu Nui Maria Henderson; Tupe Short, Tairiterangi Rangatira; Dorothy Nicholas, Uirangi Mataiapo; Keta Williams, Muri Pu Tapere; Mii Kauvai, chairperson of the Muri Environment Care Group; Greg Stanaway, chief executive officer of the Pacific Resort Hotel Group; and Thomas Koteka, general manager of Te Manava Luxury Villas and Spa.
The Koutu Nui, as part of their vision to protect the picturesque lagoon for future generations to enjoy, introduced this raui. The Koutu Nui helped design the signs, which will be uniform across Rarotonga, with use of funding from the New Zealand Aid Programme.
The Muri lagoon marine environment was identified as a priority to conserve following confirmation by the Ministry of Marine Resources that shell fish, in particular ungakoa, paua and ariri, were slowly declining in numbers.
The Muri tapere is grateful for the funding received from Seacology to help with a community project namely renovation of their meeting house and clinic as well as community police office.
In exchange for funding, the Muri Tapere is committed to honouring the raui in place.
Seacology is a non profit organisation based in California, United States, focusing on preserving island ecosystems and cultures around the globe. A representative from Seacology will be visiting Rarotonga on the September 9 to see this project in action.
Fighting invasive species
The National Environment Service (NES), in conjunction with Tereora College Vocation students, will be carrying out awareness raising activities in Ruaau, Arorangi from today until September 8.
The programme is an initiative between the Biodiversity Conservation Unit of NES and the college. The programme aims to raise the profile of invasive species in the community and identify the roles the community can play in controlling invasive species. This programme will complement eradication efforts currently underway on Mauke.
The Clerodendrum quadriloculare, or Starburst flower is the focus of this exercise. This plant has a spectacular flower, which is in bloom at the moment. However, the plant is highly invasive. The plant prefers full sun but is more than capable of growing under dense native forest canopy. If unattended, the plant can put out many sucker/shoots around its base which allows it to spread.
Eradication is difficult, if the plant is established and can be achieved through both manual removal or herbicide application, although the former is preferred (manual removal). Severing the stem does not kill the plant but rather encourages it to put out more suckers/shoots.
The NES discourages planting of this species. Early eradication is preferable, and manual removal is preferable to herbicide methods.
Invasive species have the potential to kill our indigenous species which can adversely impact on our entire ecosystem. The control of establish invasive species requires financial and human resources which could be better spent on improving health and education. The Mile-a-Minute and Balloon Vine are common invasive species present on the island and impacting on ecosystems.
The NES is asking for community cooperation during this period and to be mindful of our students in the community. The NES will also be interested in hearing the views of communities on other invasive species while we are conducting this awareness programme.
Joseph Brider of the National Environment Service and Ian Karika, for Te Ipukarea Society (TIS), are doing a seabird and invasive alien species (IAS) survey in the northern Cook Islands.
The survey commenced last month.
IAS are plants or animals that are introduced to a place and have an adverse effect on that place economically, environmentally or ecologically. IAS that affect birds include rats, cats and ants.
TIS met with Pasha Carruthers of the National Environment Service in June to discuss the survey and also share timetables of work for the rest of the year.
The crew travelled on the MV Orongo, a boat based in Aitutaki, for the trip.
A volunteer skipper, Mark Needler from New Zealand, drove the boat.
The survey is supported by the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, Birdlife International and the Critical Ecosystems Partnership Fund (CEPF).
CEPF is a joint initiative of lAgence Francaise de Developement, Conservation International, the Global Environment Facility, the government of Japan, the MacArthur Foundation and the World Bank.
A fundamental goal is to ensure civil society is engaged in biodiversity conservation. The focus of CEPF is the conservation of threatened species and other globally important species.