Deputy prime minister Mark Brown, minister of Natural Resources and Minerals, launched the Pa Enua consultations in Mangaia to present a report on the latest progress being made in the national Cook Islands seabed minerals sector.
The visiting delegation was also made up of Business Trade and Investment Board minister George Angene, Cook Islands Investment Corporation and SBM Authority staff and Marae Moana ambassador, Kevin Iro.
Brown and his delegation first met with the mayor and the Mangaia Island Council to update and highlight the latest news on the seabed minerals sector.
This included the government’s work and plans on the legal and regulatory regime over the past few years, leading up to the proposed second tender of exploration licences next year.
A media release said initial exploration activities are considered the first, low-impact phase, from which data and information can be gathered on the Cook Islands’ deep seabed resources and environment, to allow better decision making in the future.
The aim was to give the council a broad overview of the detailed presentation to be provided later to the community. The members of the island council were then given the opportunity to ask questions and provide feedback on the current and proposed work being carried out by the sector.
While there was a general consensus on the large amount of information needed to be absorbed and the time needed to fully understand what was being presented, there was also concern to limit any effects this activity would have on the nation’ fish stocks, the release said.
The deputy prime minister confirmed that under Marae Moana framework, no seabed minerals activities can take place within 50 nautical miles of any island in the Cook Islands. This is designed to protect islands and fishing from any as yet unknown potential impacts on this proposed activity.
After meeting with the island council, the deputy prime minister undertook a wider public consultation in Oneroa to re-introduce the community to details about the seabed minerals sector.
“This was a well-attended consultation, given Mangaia’s small population, with more than 30 people attending the presentation,” the release said.
“In question time, there was active feedback on the related financial, social and environmental aspects of the sector.
“Excellent views were also raised on the management and allocation of financial returns made from the sector, the impact on local fisheries and the impact to the environment. These questions were addressed by the deputy prime minister himself, as well as help from Angene Lynch, and Iro.
“It was noted that the seabed minerals sector is quite unfamiliar to many of our people and that engagements such as these can help to make the relevant issues clearer and more understandable.”