Te Ipukarea Society: The job of caring for our environment isn’t getting any easier

Saturday July 11, 2020 Written by Te Ipukarea Society Published in Environment
Environment through the lens of youth: Tereora students participating in one of Te Ipukarea Society's latest projects. 20071048 Environment through the lens of youth: Tereora students participating in one of Te Ipukarea Society's latest projects. 20071048

OPINION: As we enter the 25th year since our Society was established, it seems the task of caring for our Cook Islands Environment is not getting any easier. If anything, the environmental challenges we face have ramped up. 

Covid-19 may have given our island home a brief respite, but the economic impacts of the virus have not yet fully hit home. This brings with it a whole new set of environmental challenges.

At our AGM in May last year, our guest speaker was Goldman Environment Prize winner, Jacqui Evans. 

When Jacqui was later dismissed from her role managing the Marae Moana Marine Park, it became clear that her suggestion to move more slowly on seabed mining had played a significant role in the decision not to renew her contract. 

In June last year, the new Seabed Minerals Bill was passed by Parliament.  We put in a strong submission for changes, but few were accepted. We requested a select committee review the Bill, but this didn’t happen.  

Just this month, Parliament passed amendments to the same Act. Again, we put in a submission on some of these changes but as before, only a few of our suggestions were taken on board and again, the changes were not referred to a select committee. 

On a lighter note, over this past year we have had two wonderful interns working with us, Charlee McLean and Andrea George. 

They were great ambassadors for the Society and they were exposed to a wide range of learning opportunities. Their enthusiastic work in schools was especially valued.  

For the second year running, we have promoted Mana Tiaki Eco Certification for tourism operators, and we launched a new website. 

While the industry is reeling from the impacts of zero tourism, many businesses have taking positive steps towards reducing their eco-footprints in preparation for the economy to reopen.

This year we completed two regional pacific projects in Niue and Tokelau under the Global Grant Project.  The Cook Islands component for this project is also underway, with work to start soon on erosion control at Avana Harbour.

In August we ran a youth workshop, funded by the US Consulate in Auckland, to stimulate interest in science based careers. 

An impressive selection of young local professionals presented on topics from marine biology, deep sea exploration, geographic information systems, to careers in engineering and fisheries. 

Later that year we also presented on careers in conservation to younger students at the junior careers expo.

In November 2019 we were excited to welcome Alanna Smith back to the fold, having completed her Masters studies at Victoria University. She has rejoined our staff in the role of project coordinator.

Preventing the burning of plastic rubbish kept us busy in the new year and we have continued to raise awareness on the wider problem with plastic.

This month we launched our Plastic Free July campaign, which we hope will also build support for a legislative ban on single use plastics. The amount of plastic recovered in the collaborative Muri beach clean-up for World Ocean’s Day is always an eye-opener.

This term we began our environmental photography project at Tereora College, which will soon roll out for senior students across Rarotonga, Aitutaki and Atiu, again with funding from the US Consulate in Auckland. 

We are excited to have also secured funding for some new waste management projects kicking off very soon.

Te Ipukarea Society’s annual general meeting is a great time to join our dedicated Society or to renew your membership. We will have some videos clips of this year that was, so do come along!

The meeting is at 5pm this Wednesday, July 15, at the Creative Centre in Tupapa.

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