‘Passionate’ environment officer denies debris claim

Thursday September 05, 2019 Written by Published in Environment
Kanoe Aquino attempted to lift the thick plastic ropes. 19090432 Kanoe Aquino attempted to lift the thick plastic ropes. 19090432

The National Environment Service has hit back at claims they told accommodation owners to throw rubbish back into the ocean.

A large mound of plastic ropes was dragged in from the reef in Turangi by a family of tourists after they discovered the debris caught in the reef while they were walking down the beach.

Tropical Sands Accommodation owners Rudy and Kanoe Aquino were unable to cut it loose from the lagoon when it first drifted in but with help from their guests, the deteriorating mass of plastic ropes was brought ashore.

The Aquinos said they were told to put it back in the ocean; the senior environment officer said he referred them to the Ministry of Marine Resources to clean it up; Marine Resources hasn’t showed up yet.

The Aquinos’ allegations caused consternation among officials: “I hope this is not true,” National Environment Service Director Nga Puna emailed all his staff. “General note to staff. Please do not speak on behalf of behalf of NES if you are not well informed.”

And what has happened to the debris, after the flurry of phone calls and emails? The tangled mound of ropes still remains unclaimed by any government agency at the Turangi accommodation.

Kanoe had called National Environment Service to ask how they could dispose of the bundle of ropes – and according to her, they told her to put it back in the ocean.

But senior environment officer Benjamin Maxwell, who took the call, rejected her claim. He said her real concern was that it was a smelly eyesore for their guests.

They described the debris as being old fishing nets with ropes and bamboo, he said.

“She wanted the National Environment Service to clear the following debris from in front of their beach as it is an eyesore and has a very bad smell becoming a problem for their guest,” said Maxwell.

He advised them to contact the Ministry of Marine Resources Inshore Division and see if the following debris was one of their FAD materials from on the Matavera or Turangi FADs which he said may have come off during the king tides we had a couple of weeks ago.

However, Kanoe had insisted it wasn’t a FAD when she spoke to him. “You would think they would jump at the opportunity to help,” she said.

Kanoe said she didn’t want to offend Environment service and had thought they would be the body to contact and said she felt at the time, he didn’t want anything to do with it.

Kanoe had proceeded to call Marine Resources after that who said they would come to collect the debris.

Maxwell said he did not say anything about putting the debris back into the ocean and that would contradict his role as a Senior Environment Officer.  “I am a very passionate person for our environment as a whole.”

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