The two-day Ridge-to-Reef workshop was opened by the Minister for Environment, Kiriau Turepu and Johan Robinson, the UNDP Regional Technical Assistant based in Bangkok, Thailand.
In his opening address, Turepu emphasised the need for individuals in the community to be proactive about their environment rather than rely on government.
“Each village needs to take care of their own needs, and develop their own area, not just leave it to government agencies to do the job. They are not here to do everything, they are here to support.”
Turepu said they weren’t all at the workshop just to talk about issues and solutions, but to make commitments for action.
Robinson said he looked forward to collaborating with workshop participants to collectively achieve the goals government has set.
“It is a huge honour for us to work with the government of the Cook Islands, specifically with the National Environment Service, Ministry of Agriculture and Marine Resources, and the Tourism office.”
Participants include National Environment Service officers from the southern group islands, representatives from the Ministry of Marine Resources and Ministry of Agriculture and island councillors, mayors and Tamuera Ariki from Mauke.
The project aims to strengthen the management of protected areas and to create mainstreaming of biodiversity in key sectors to lessen threats.
The project is coordinated by the National Environment Service and carried out by the Ridge-to-Reef team within the Island Futures Division.
The Ridge-to-Reef team consists of project coordinator Maria Tuoro, project officer Olaf Rasmussen and finance and administration officer Tatiana Paulo.
Also involved in the workshop are Cook Islands coordinator Tessa Taufua and Taufao Taufao, both from the UNDP Apia office.
The project will also support the Cook Islands in maintaining traditional resource management and conservation systems.
The workshop will continue today at the New Hope Church.