This was revealed by Ben Ponia, the chief of staff at the Office of the Prime Minister.
The support came after Prime Minister Henry Puna spoke about the marine reserve at the sold out Commonwealth Club event in San Francisco on Wednesday. Government is seeking to attract "global interest, investment and genuine partnerships", he said.
Puna was accompanied by Ponia and Marae Moana ambassador Kevin Iro to the event. The prime minister spoke on the Cook Islands’ relationship with its ocean domain and the establishment of Marae Moana.
He explained that since assuming office in 2010 he was determined that the Cook Islands should be a “clean and green nation”.
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The country had “tried very hard to balance the three dimensions of sustainable economic, environmental and social development, from integration to implementation”.
Modern approaches had separated people from the ocean, he warned. “It is not how they (our ancestors) delimited their domains of influence, it does not portray the marine realm at all or the connection between our people and the entirety of our environment. Our islands are an integral part of our ocean of opportunity and value”.
Therefore, legislating Marae Moana was a necessity and passage of the Act followed five years of community consultation and awareness building in order to gain the entire country’s buy-in, Puna told the audience, who paid from $10 to $58 each to attend the event.
The Marae Moana Act 2017 is the overarching framework to ensure intergenerational and intra-generational equity and access to natural resources. Where other Acts are in conflict the Marae Moana takes precedence.
The main purpose of the Act is to protect and conserve the ecological, biodiversity and heritage values of the Cook Islands marine environment. Its additional purposes recognise the interconnection between land and ocean and the need for integrated decision making and management.
It identifies principles underpinning ecological sustainable use, of protection, conservation, and restoration; of sustainable use, the precautionary principle, of community participation, of transparency and accountability, of integrated management, of investigation and research, of eco-system based management, and the principle of sustainable financing.
The Act designates 50 nautical miles of no commercial fishing or mining zone around islands and the use of spatial planning to designate further zones.
In concluding the Prime Minister Puna noted that, “Undoubtedly, our future is where we are able to build on the potential inherent in the inter-relationship between our islands and the ocean – our Marae Moana – to promote our sustainable development through our own initiatives, as well as by attracting global interest, investment and genuine partnerships of collaboration”.
Puna also spoke at length on the journey of the Cook Island to graduation on January 1, 2020 to a developed country status.
He highlighted some of the nation’s building blocks: the Cook Islands independence in free association with New Zealand 54 years ago; a stable government for the past 10 years; and strong economic growth combined with prudent fiscal policies under his Cabinet – moving from an agricultural based economy to a service based tourism economy.