Te Ipukarea Society was fortunate to be able to participate as an observer in the 28th annual meeting of the Secretariat for the Pacific Regional Environment Program (SPREP) held this week in Apia.
Also at the meeting representing the Cook Islands government were Joseph Brider from the National Environment Service as head of the government delegation, accompanied by Jim Armistead and Piakura Passfield, representing the Foreign Affairs ministry.
In a statement read out at the end of the meeting, Te Ipukarea Society technical director Kelvin Passfield congratulated SPREP on the achievements they had reported on over the past 12 months.
From the annual report it was obvious that significant progress has been made across the member countries in the environment sector, with the support of the Secretariat and their funding partners, he said.
“It was also encouraging to see the pipeline projects that are focusing on such important issues to us all, such as waste management and protection of our oceans, including those planned under EDF 11.
“As a locally-based Pacific Island NGO, we do, however, note that there appears to have been very little in the way of partnerships between the Secretariat and environmental NGOs such as Te Ipukarea Society, Samoa Conservation Society, and Palau Conservation Society, as examples.
“ Speaking from our own particular position, we believe partnering with national NGOs can be very cost-effective in delivering results on the ground amongst our Pacific Island communities.”
Passfield this could facilitate the trickle-down impacts of projects.
“The need for this was highlighted during the meeting by the delegation from Niue. Example of what small NGOs like our can achieve can be found in the newsletters on our website, http://www.tiscookislands.org/.
“You will see NGOs such as ours can and do deliver significant outcomes on a comparatively modest budget.
“We therefore included in our statement at the closing of the meeting, a humble request that SPREP members encourage the Secretariat to include pro-active NGOs working on the ground in Pacific Island countries, as partners in project implementation.
We highlighted that this can be a very cost-effective way of achieving project objectives and also help to build the capacity of these NGOs, increasing the potential for sustainability of project outcomes beyond the life of the funding cycle for these projects.”
Passfield said TIS also welcomed the development of Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) guidelines for coastal tourism developments.
“However, we expressed concern that these do not appear to have been widely distributed for comment.
“Te Ipukarea Society works closely with both the Tourism Industry Council and the Cook Islands Tourism Authority to promote sustainable tourism and mitigate negative tourism impacts on the environment.
“We were not aware that this document was being developed and that it was on the agenda for endorsement at this meeting. We would have liked to have had an opportunity to comment on the draft before endorsement.
“That being said, we do believe that the development of these guidelines is a very positive step in the right direction, and something that is much needed here in the Pacific.
“We would like to convey our appreciation to the Secretariat and the South Pacific Tourism Organisation based in Fiji for being proactive in this regard.
“We would also encourage anyone planning on undertaking coastal tourism developments, and those consultants who conduct EIAs for these sorts of projects, to obtain a copy of these guidelines once they are published.”