One of the core focal areas that Te Ipukarea Society pursues is environmental education for young people. We include this in our Strategic Plan because we have a long term commitment to the Cook Islands environment, and realise that it is not always easy to change the way communities do things in the short term!
Last year we ran a marine science camp for 10 senior students, 8 from Rarotonga, 1 from Atiu, and 1 from Aitutaki, with funding assistance from UNESCO.
We are hoping to run another camp next year, this time teaching the students more about the connection between the impacts of our land based activities, such as agriculture and land clearing, on our marine environment.
We also often partner with government in raising environmental awareness. This week we have been contributing expertise to the week-long Climate Change Cook Islands and National Environment Service workshop for Pa Enua students.
One of our projects last year aimed at raising awareness about protecting our marine environment was a schools poster competition.
All schools were invited to participate. Recognising the importance of clean beaches and healthy lagoons for our tourists, as well as our locals, prompted the Cook Islands Tourism Corporation to step up and sponsor prizes for the competition.
Much interest was generated throughout the outer islands, with an overwhelming number of entries coming in from Rakahanga’s very own Rakuraku School.
In order to better showcase the winners of the competition, and to promote environmental awareness, the 4 winning posters were incorporated into sign boards to be erected at the participating schools around the country, and also around the coastal areas of Rarotonga.
The first of the signboards has recently been erected at Tikioki, not far from the Enua Manea Hall. The sign features the four winning posters from each age category (three from Rakuraku School and one from Araura College in Aitutaki). Member of Parliament for the area, Selina Napa, Te Ipukarea Society staff and Cook Islands Tourism Corporation Director of Destination Development Metua Vaiimene were on site to unveil the first signboard.
The signboards are aimed at reminding beach users to be mindful of their rubbish, and ensure their trash is taken back home or placed in its rightful spot. Ensuring the unlawful taking of marine resources from within ra’ui zones is another message portrayed by each of the signs.
The Pa Enua have already received their signboards which have been erected at schools around the country. Eight more colourful signboards are to go up at strategic locations around Rarotonga where they can be most effective. Upcoming sites include the Papaaroa beach and the crowd favourite, the Social Centre Beach in Nikao.
Rarotonga’s landowners, traditional leaders and local MPs who are interested in having a signboard within their coastal area are asked to get in contact with Te Ipukarea Society to discuss the possibilities. - TIS