In a statement Mark Brown, the Minister for Seabed Minerals, announced the appointment of the committee comprising of community leaders representing religious, aronga mana, environmental, private sector, sporting, youth and academic perspectives.
They are: Bishop Tutai Pere, Makiuti Tongia, Sam Napa, Makiroa Mitchell, George George Williamson and Maru Mariri, along with Seabed Minerals Commissioner, Alex Herman.
The committee will also make recommendations to the Seabed Minerals Authority on policies, and provide a voice for the community.
Committee member, Bishop Pere, views the seabed minerals sector as an opportunity for the Cook Islands to become masters of its own destiny, if handled right and well.
“With our faith in our God who promises to bless our Cook Islands nation to no longer be at the tail end but at the head, not beneath but above, no more a borrower but a lender – what an awesome legacy to leave behind for our children, grandchildren and future generations to come.”
Bishop Pere’s views were echoed by other committee members, including George who hoped that one day the Cook Islands people would reap the benefits of the deep ocean, which would lead to better health care, better hospitals, better education, better roads, and better access to the outer islands.
Minister Mark Brown was pleased that the members accepted the invitation to serve on the committee.
“Government is vested in seeing this seabed minerals sector develop in the best way possible for the future benefit of our people. Through the Committee we will see greater engagement with our people, so that we can make more robust and inclusive decisions,” Brown said.
“The committee members are active in our grass roots communities and are eager to play their part in seabed minerals. They have already begun sharing their views on how we can better engage.”
Earlier in the month, the committee undertook an induction session with the Authority, and will receive further informational sessions on relevant seabed minerals issues. This will enable committee members to engage with their community groups on seabed minerals issues, as well as give updates on the progress of the sector.
The Authority will continue to engage with stakeholder groups, with further public consultations planned on the sector.
Committee members are expected to be part of some of those consultations.
Seabed Minerals Commissioner Alex Herman said: “We have a good mix of people who each bring their own unique perspectives. What they have in common is a keen interest in the seabed minerals sector and a desire to advance the well-being of our people. I am excited to be working with my fellow Cook Islanders as we build and develop this sector.”
Government will be making announcements on the opening of applications for exploration licenses soon.
Mark Brown reiterated: “Exploration research will be fundamental to understanding our environment and nodule resource, and any impacts potential recovery operations may have on the deep sea environment. We are entering the next phase of what has been a long journey for our country, this is an exciting time for the Cook Islands.”