Over-the-reef appeal to be heard

Wednesday January 20, 2016 Written by Published in Environment
National Enviroment Service director Joseph Brider. 16011913 National Enviroment Service director Joseph Brider. 16011913

The Rarotonga Enviroment Authority will meet this week to hear an appeal by the company wanting to build at over-the-reef pipeline to supply fuel to Rarotonga.

 

In November the Rarotonga Enviroment Authority (REA) rejected Petrocean’s controversial proposal, backed by Toa Petroleum, Transam Cook Islands Ltd and Pacific Islands Energy.

National Enviroment Service director Joseph Brider said the REA would meet on Thursday to hear the appeal.

The plan to build the over-the-reef pipeline has come under heavy fire this year, with many writing public submissions against the plans to construct a medium range fuel tanker mooring and pipeline in Nikao, Rarotonga.

A tanker routinely passes the Cook Islands to deliver fuel to Tahiti. The plan’s backers say the vessel could potentially stop en route to deliver fuel for the local market, resulting in cheaper petrol prices for consumers.

Developers have said the proposal could offer lower costs associated with bulk delivery and handling of fuel when compared to current means of supply, and some backers of the plan say it would be safer than berthing a fuel ship at Avatiu harbour.

But under the Enviroment Act, the REA at a recent meeting decided to decline the project proposal.

The group, chaired by Ian Karaka-Wilmott and made up of the 10 MPs for Rarotonga and one representative each from civil society, a non-governmental organisation, Te Aronga Mana and Public Health said the environmental risks of the project were significant and had led to the project’s rejection.

“Any major spillage would be detrimental to the surrounding reef and lagoon ecology, human health and well being, social and economic capacity of the Panama/Nikao area or for Rarotonga as a whole,” they said in their decision.

The proposed location in Nikao was also an area known for extreme weather events.

 “There is no guarantee that this project would result in lower fuel cost. Pacific Islands Energy did not provide a proper cost benefit analysis to justify the use of a non-renewable resource.”

The REA noted the Cook Islands Ports Authority had limited capacity and resources to manage and respond to disasters such as oil spills and fire both within and outside the harbour.

Overall the project was deemed inconsistent with the government’s commitment to the use of renewable and sustainable energy, they said.

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