Commenting on a proposed development at Avana Point, which has attracted considerable opposition from a wide cross section of Rarotonga residents, Allsworth said development needed to be aligned to the needs and aspirations of the indigenous people, of the Cook Islands first and not to the business interests and objectives of foreign entrepreneurs with substantial capital.
In a statement issued to CINews on Friday, Allsworth said members of the Koutu Nui, made up of traditional sub-chiefs, had discussed the development issue at length during their monthly executive meetings in May, June and July.
“After reading the news and various articles on this important subject, the Koutu Nui executives have decided to provide some in- depth analysis and their respective views on this matter.”
The organisation had especially noted the views of businessman Greg Stanaway, consultant Teresa Trott, Cook Islands Investment Corporation chief executive Petero Okotai and MFEM economist Natalie Cook, Allsworth said.
“Whilst the Koutu Nui respects their individual opinions on development, it is our view that (they) fall short of promoting and protecting the rights of our indigenous people, inclusive of permanent residents,” Allsworth said.
“The outcomes and recommendations from the 2017 Koutu Nui Conference covered 6 key areas such as land, immigration, business development, Maori language, customs and traditions, Marae Moana and Te Mato Vai.
“We ask the question, development for whom and at what cost?
“The Koutu Nui supports working together with mutual benefits alongside approved foreign developers or investors and the indigenous landowners, within the spirit of the National Sustainable Development Plan. However, recent investment developments and initiatives have shown that this is not (happening).”
Allsworth said it was important to gather the concensus, support and voice of the people on foreign investment before any agency allowed the sale of business properties to foreign ownership only to find it on-sold for a higher market price.
“Where is the indigenous landowner interests in all this process?
“Over the past 45 years and since the opening of the international airport, we have seen rapid and uncontrolled development which has resulted in putting pressure on our infrastructural systems and our precious and fragile environment.
“Clear evidence shows that our solid and liquid waste disposal is close to full capacity levels and the Arorangi waste site is nearly overflowing.
“Plastic waste and discarded vehicles and products are a big problem. The former Environment minister, Kiriau Turepu, supported the Aronga Mana’s request to ban the importation of plastic bags and other products or materials detrimental to our environment.”
The Koutu Nui was pleased with government’s Te Mato Vai water project for clean portable water at no cost to households, Allsworth added.
“The WATSAN sanitation project will improve tourism related sanitation services. We have seen the on going green initiatives with solar renewable energy as the best way forward. A recent visit by the Koutu Nui to Atiu and Mitiaro has seen the success of these sustainable projects.”
The Koutu Nui and its outer islands representatives under the guidance of the nation’s Ui Ariki, wanted a protective and precautionary approach to development, Allsworth said.
“We definitely do not want to go down the path that Hawaii and to some extent Tahiti has gone, with exploitation and development at the expense of the indigenous population with limited resources.
“Whilst tourism is our major economic driver, our tourism numbers are increasing every year and the Aronga Mana is asking, when is full capacity enough? How many tourists can we accommodate, how many hotels and beds do we want, how many vehicles can our roads manage, how much human and product waste can our fragile environment take and what is the optimum level before we reach a tipping point?
“How much damage can our fragile environment take?
“We need strong ‘gatekeepers’ on the frontline of immigration and business development. We have already witnessed the lovely Muri lagoon being polluted due to land-related developments.
“The push by indigenous collective landowners to protect and preserve this jewel is long overdue and a possible marine reserve (must be) established for future generations.
“The preservation of our Ipukarea, our garden of eden is paramount for our very existence and especially for our tamariki,mokopuna,ina e te inarere.Kia mau piri tatou e te iti tangata Kuki Airana i to tatou basileia ruperupe,auraka kia takinokino ia.”
Allsworth said the Koutu Nui’s welcome and introductory meeting with the new minister for the Ui Ariki and Koutu Nui, George Angene last Thursday at Atupare had shown the support and commitment by the minister on key concerns and issues affecting both the Ui Ariki and Aronga Mana.