Vaka Puaikura came out on top with the $5,000 prize for Akono I Te Ao Rangi as well as the $2,500 prize for Peu Maori.
Puaikura were voted most clean beaches, least amount of mosquito breeding sites, most clean streams and free of animals, best reuse of rubbish and recycle centres, best flower or vegetable garden, best bus shelters, best public toilets and best public area or sports field.
The Puaikura committee will put the money towards the beautification of Tuoro, also known as Black Rock, the construction of a bowling green and the maintenance of the Kavera burial grounds.
Vaka Takitumu took out Tupuranga Tangata with the least number of dog nuisance complaints and wandering dogs, and the least reported crime.
Takitumu’s prize is $2,500 and will go towards dog registration and associated costs.
The Vaka Pride competition is a new initiative spearheaded by Cook Islands Tourism and supported by Internal Affairs, Health, the National Environment Service and Cook Islands Police.
The competition was designed to encourage communities to be better stewards of the land in an effort to keep Rarotonga a clean, green and beautiful destination.
The three categories, Akono I Te Ao Rangi, Tupuranga Tangata and Peu Maori bring together a total of $10,000 in prize money for the winning villages three times a year.
The judges include Matthew Rima from the National Environment Service (NES), Police Inspector John Hosking, Henry Tupa from Internal Affairs, Tata Vaeau from the Ministry of Health and Metua Vaiimene from Cook Islands Tourism.
Vaiimene, Tourism’s destination development manager, says it’s an initiative by Tourism to positively engage with the community. Vaiimene says it is exciting to partner with NES, Cook Islands Police, Internal Affairs and Health to merge existing campaigns into one project.
“The competition is a way in which we can contribute to community projects, and in return, the community can contribute to the programmes that we all run in our different agencies.”
Tupa, who is also director of the beautification project, says it made sense to apply a rewarding system instead of a system which penalises communities for not keeping their land clean.
Police Inspector Hosking says police’s role in the Vaka Pride competition is purely from a crime perspective.
“Our crime statistics do have an effect on tourism, and we value tourism very highly.”
Vaeau from Health says they will continue to run the Tutaka programme, and the results from that will be incorporated into the Vaka Pride competition.
Held three times a year, the Tutaka programme ensures property owners are keeping their sections in good order.
Rima from the National Environment Service says it is beneficial for NES to play a role in the competition, and that it is really exciting to be a part of it.
“We look forward to working with the team we have here.”