The piggery is run by Takamoa Theological College students under the leadership of principal Reverend Iana Aitau. NES officer Phillip Strickland says Rev Aitau has also given the undertaking that the Theological College will clean up the acre or so of land on which the piggery is situated.
The decision to shut down the piggery came yesterday after a meeting of NES, Public Health officials and Rev Aitau that was sparked off by a complaint from a local resident.
It’s believed the piggery, located alongside Turangi stream, has been operating commercially since late last year.
A gushing tap inside the covered, concreted piggery kept raw sewerage flowing directly out and accumulating in a pond covering about quarter of an acre. The appalling liquid mass then discharges directly into Turangi stream. The stench in the area is sickening.
At the inland side of the piggery a rudimentary drain has been dug into the ground which also leads to the stream – raw sewerage is running into the stream at this point as well.
Also of huge concern are two substantial piles of tyre wires that the Theological College has amassed after months of burning hundreds of rubber tyres to heat two huge pots of water to clean slaughtered pigs.
Next to the are umu, alongside firewood is another pile of rubber tyres ready for burning. At 9 am yesterday morning tyres were still smouldering after pigs were slaughtered and cleaned the day before.
The piggery is also operating a commercial abattoir in an open, unconcreted area using two wooden benches. Two filthy large metal containers are used to clean pig carcasses. It couldn’t be established with Public Health whether the college was certified to prepare carcasses for sale.
Before relocating to Turangi, the Theological College operated a commercial piggery in Takamoa. It ran into serious trouble when it was discovered to be in breach of a number of environmental and health issues at the time. Cook Islands News was told the college was directed to shut down that operation. Strickland said NES wrote to Rev Aitau advising him to improve the standard of the Turangi piggery and giving him one month from September 10 to remedy the situation. Site inspections this week confirmed the college has done nothing to rectify environment and health breaches. Strickland says NES prefers to try and reason with people who may be breaking environmental laws and give them time to remedy the situation rather than being “aggressive”
“We don’t go straight and prosecute.”
Discharging raw effluent into streams and burning tyres are offences under Cook Islands law.
Three public health officers visited the piggery site yesterday. One told this reporter he had been instructed not to say anything to the media. He also said a letter of complaint about the piggery should be written to the Public Health department by this reporter so it could be followed through.
Rather than inspecting the site to note the many violations, one officer stared at the pigs and the other stood next to the are umu with his hands in his pockets for the entire 15 minutes.
The third officer walked along the back road taking photos of the operation.
Not one went through the piggery and surrounding area or inspected the area where raw sewerage is discharging into the stream.
Effluent from piggeries is known to be a source affecting nutrient levels in Muri lagoon which have been confirmed to be over the critical limit for a healthy coral reef.