A highlight of the evening will be the showing of a short video on the TIS team’s recent trip to Suwarrow. This will be followed at 6.30 pm by the annual meeting.
It has been a busy year for TIS. Over the past 13 months the organisation has completed some major projects and commenced exciting new ones. We have retained our two full time and two part-time staff members, and we have begun the Dame Margaret Karika Environmental internship with the hiring of an intern in early 2018.
Our staff have worked more closely with local schools this year, after being approached to do presentations to classes as well as help out with school tours to the Takitumu Conservation Area. Alanna Smith and Liam Kokaua joined New Zealand Department of Conservation again in August 2017 to conduct kakerori banding.
The Suwarrow team recently returned from a rat eradication exercise funded by the GEF SGP on the National Park. The team conducted bird surveys on the island in between rat baiting rounds, and we will await confirmation that Suwarrow is rat-free in a year or two.
The Marae Moana Bill was passed in parliament on 11th July 2017, which is a huge move for conservation of both ocean and land biodiversity in the Cook Islands. We worked hard to gather support for a larger exclusion zones around each island in the Cook Islands, and through doing this helped to convince government to increase the size of the zones from their proposed 24nm to 50nm. We have Liam Kokaua included in the Marae Moana Technical Advisory Group and Teina Mackenzie on the Marae Moana Council as the non-government organisation representative.
Alanna won the Miss Cook Islands pageant and travelled to China to participate in Miss World. She used these opportunities to showcase the conservation efforts on the Rimatara lorikeet and the work she has done at Te Ipukarea Society with the tanga’eo. She has continued her research into petrels and Shearwaters in the Cook Islands, placing acoustic bird recorders on different mountain peaks, and most recently on Mangaia. She also attended a UNESCO Biosphere reserve meeting on behalf of TIS.
Liam spent two weeks conducting whale research on the Great Barrier Reef, increasing our capacity in cetacean research. He also commenced a postgraduate certificate in Ridge to Reef Sustainability, funded through the Ridge to Reef Programme. Through the R2R programme, Liam participated in two surveys of the endemic Ara Pepe plant in Mauke and Atiu.
Our first climate change project, the provision of weather stations in schools, has kicked off with the majority of outer island schools now recipients of weather stations and having received trainings in how to read these instruments and make climate records for their islands. Our second climate change project, focussing on community based adaptation to climate change and other climate related issues. We also have other projects in Niue, and Tokelau. This is the society’s first project to work beyond Cook Islands borders, and has brought in valuable income which helps us maintain our work at home.
Alongside the Cook Islands Aronga Mana, we took the government to court for signing the Sustainable Fisheries Partnership Agreement with the EU. The initial court case was from July 3-6 2017 and after a number of months we were informed that we were unfortunately unsuccessful. It was agreed between TIS and the Aronga Mana to go to the Court of Appeal in May 2018, and we are currently awaiting the outcome.
We continue to advocate for a sustainable tourism industry. We are working on development of a tourism accreditation scheme for tourist accommodations and businesses, funded by the Ridge to Reef Project.
We have been involved in interviews and providing comments with a number of researchers and during stakeholder consultations.
We continue to educate the public about seabed mining through our information brochures particularly at events such as environment week.
Our team, especially Kelvin has continued the reviewing and commenting on EIAs distributed by NES.
Our Mana Tiaki programme has grown to include a number of businesses on Rarotonga, and includes the placement of donation boxes at local businesses such as bars, cafes, department stores, and hardware stores. Mana Tiaki income for our projects has increased considerably since 2016.
Liam became a youth ambassador for Sustainable Development on the global stage when he was invited to the UNESCO Education for Sustainable Development Conference in Paris. This followed a full day workshop he ran in February 2018 which had 38 high school youth attend to learn more about ESD.
Our GEF SGP funded waste management programme has ended. All schools in the Cook Islands received worm farms and composters. They also received training from TIS staff on how to manage these facilities. We also focused on raising awareness of waste issues, promoting safe disposal of e-waste, and promoting biodegradable containers. Our staff will continue doing checks on the worm farms and composters.
We organised a public screening of A Plastic Ocean which highlights the dire situation of plastic marine debris currently filling our oceans, which was well attended. We will continue to advocate for better waste management solutions in the future.
We have greatly increased our presence at school and in youth engagement in general this year. This includes presentations to classes on a wide variety of topics. Our waste management and weather stations project specifically focused on youth in schools throughout the Cook Islands. We have also been active in public events which target youth such as the annual Environment Week.