Lagoon concerns aired

Thursday April 20, 2017 Written by Published in Local
The workshop summary shows island residents are highly concerned about the way Muri beach looks when the algae or weed is at its worst, and its effect on tourism. 16011108 The workshop summary shows island residents are highly concerned about the way Muri beach looks when the algae or weed is at its worst, and its effect on tourism. 16011108

A summary of the outcomes from a workshop held by the Ministry of Finance and Economic Management’s steering group governing the Mei Te Vai Ki Te Vai project has revealed a high level of community concern and frustration at the lack of action taken to manage Rarotonga’s lagoon pollution issues.

 

A newsletter issued by Mei Te Vai Ki Te Vai management said the workshop, held at the Ngatangiia/Matavera Club House, Rarotonga in February, showed Rarotonga residents were highly concerned about the way the lagoon looks, particularly with the large amount of green seaweed washed up at Muri and other beaches around the island.

The outcome summary showed there were also concerns about impact of lagoon environmental issues on the tourist industry and Cook Islands economy, and recognition that it was not just a local issue but a nationwide problem.

Workshop participants had acknowledged government needed to take a leadership role, and work with the community to remedy the lagoon problems. There was a high level of interest in the Mei Te Vai Ki Te Vai project. People and organisations were committed to work together.

There had been approval of the need to address issues via early measures and a long-term solution, as well as “some concern” about the 18-month timeframe involved in investigating environmental issues. However, there had been “broad recognition” that this timeframe was reasonable, provided all efforts were made to proceed as quickly as possible and that measures were implemented earlier.

At the workshop anecdotal and historical information about changes to the lagoon was shared and questions raised about the involvement of agriculture in issues affecting the lagoon, the newsletter said.

Questions about an Environmental Impact Assessment had been lodged by the Muri Lagoon Action Group and workshop attendees had shown a preference for regular communications via email and workshops, as well as a preference for broad community involvement.

There had also been a request for communications and engagement to be based on “mutual respect”, the newsletter added.

Around 60 people attended the workshop, including Aronga Mana, government and elected representatives, local residents, resort and tourist operators and members of community groups. It was the first community workshop to be held on Rarotonga regarding the project. Its aim was to introduce the project and to gain a better understanding of what participants wanted it to achieve, to discuss any issues and concerns, and find out how participants wanted to be informed and consulted.

Cook Islands Financial Secretary Garth Henderson spoke about the importance of the project, the commitment to intergovernmental collaboration and community engagement and PMU team member, Adrian Teotahi, translated Henderson’s words into Maori.

Project management unit manager Evan Mayson explained the background of the project, the team, the importance of community engagement and key components of the project.

He also discussed what could realistically be expected from efforts to remedy lagoon issues, given there was no “silver bullet” that would restore the lagoon to a pristine state within the next year or two. 

More details about key points raised at the workshop in CI News soon.

            - Release/ CS

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