As a first step, a stakeholder workshop meeting will take place at the Ngatangiia Matavera Club House on February 14 with the purpose of understanding expectations, interests and concerns as they relate to the project objectives.
Key government stakeholders, community groups and the commercial business owners in the Muri area have been invited.
A similar meeting will be conducted in Aitutaki with the Island Government and key stakeholders the following week.
This will mark the beginning of a comprehensive stakeholder engagement approach that will underpin all stages of the project.
GHD Limited New Zealand is now providing Project Management services for the Muri and Aitutaki Wastewater Project, following the amalgamation of this project with the Te Mato Vai Water Partnership under one governance structure.
The new Wastewater Project will build on the valuable work that has been undertaken to date, and also identify any gaps in information needed, to propose the best long-term solution for the Muri and Aitutaki lagoon areas.
The project will also identify some early works that will assist in reducing the rate of deterioration of the lagoons in addition to undertaking the design and construction of the infrastructure for a long-term solution.
While GHD’s Wastewater team brings international expertise, it also includes eight Cook Islands based full-time employees.
A long-term objective of the project is to ensure that there is a local capacity in place to operate and maintain the new water and wastewater infrastructure in the long term.
Muri lagoon plays a vital role in the Cook Islands economy.
Many visitors come to the Cook Islands to enjoy the environment and protecting the lagoon environment is important to safeguard the well-being of the tourism industry.
Tourism accounts for more than 60 per cent of GDP.
The Financial Secretary, Garth Henderson, stated that “we’re looking forward to working with key stakeholders, and especially with the Muri community, to better understand the issues and work together to find a solution that works for everyone.
We really appreciate the input of landowners and stakeholders to date on the Te Mato Vai Project, and seek to maintain this positive collaboration for the Wastewater project”.
Recently arrived New Zealand High Commissioner Peter Marshall has congratulated the Cook Islands government on initiating the Muri and Aitutaki Wastewater Project.
Muri Lagoon is widely recognised as the “jewel in the crown’’ of Cook Islands tourism, which has helped attract record numbers of visitors to the Cook Islands over the past 12 months.
New Zealand sees protecting the lagoons from wastewater pollutants as a critical step to safeguarding the natural environment and the economy.
Marshall said: “New Zealand stands right alongside the Cook Islands as it focuses on this important area of work.
We have already committed up to $8.8 million towards the Muri and Aitutaki Wastewater Project and are very pleased to now see the work getting under way.”
“Our funding commitment continues New Zealand’s close engagement with the sanitation sector in the Cook Islands, and complements our support for other infrastructure such as Te Mato Vai, Tereora College, and connectivity, as well as our on-going support for the health, education, and tourism sectors.”
The Cook Islands government has recently appointed GHD New Zealand to lead the Muri and Aitutaki Wastewater project as well as Te Mato Vai.
“Amalgamating the project management and governance of Te Mato Vai and the new wastewater project is a cost-effective and streamlined approach that we think will have real benefits.”
The Cook Islands Government has announced that stakeholder meetings will be held in Muri next week and in Aitutaki the week after to initiate the project and close engagement with the community.