Plan to ban tourists from risky passage

Wednesday August 28, 2019 Written by Published in Local

A proposed ra’ui on the Ava’avaroa passage to ban all activity is looming over tour operators.

 

The Aronga Mana of Titikaveka are looking to consult with the Ministry of Marine Resources on a 24/7 ra’ui.

They are concerned the passage’s deadly rip poses serious safety concerns, and worried about the harassment of turtles that reside in its waters.

Rongo Mate Preston, one of the mataiapos in Titikaveka, said they wanted all activity to stop in the Ava’avaroa passage, so they were pushing for a ra’ui.

Preston had met with some of the tour operators earlier this year and was not convinced by their claims to protect the turtles.

“They are not looking after the turtles,” she said. “They are making money for themselves.”

The real issue was the risk of taking tourists into the passage, she said. “I’ve seen people in the passage at high tide.”

Chantal Napa, whose concierge business works alongside the tour operators, said: “If the elders want to ban all activity, then they can. But what if locals want to go swimming there?”

As best she can remember, the deaths that have occurred at the Ava’avaroa passage were not on tours – they were tourists venturing out alone.

Napa asked: “Wouldn’t it be better if that they are guided?” She doesn’t think a 24/7 ra’ui will solve the issue.

Joshua Utanga, operator of Snorkel Cook Islands who conducts snorkelling tours in the Ava’avaroa passage, didn’t think a ra’ui was needed.

There just needed to be more management around the activity, including a limit on the number of people in the passage at any one time. “But I’m not sure what the answer is,” said Utanga.

Originally, water safety council president Brent Fisher was working to develop a legislation to fine unsafe tour operators, but instead he introduced a water safety course for tour guides.

Titikaveka MP Selina Napa has called for a partial ra’ui that would ban any activity in the passages during the weekend or a couple days a week.

Tourist activity has slowed down after a weekend ban was agreed at the community meetings with tour operators.

Additionally, as part of the Kia Orana Values programme ,Cook Islands Tourism developed a set of water safety flyers that were distributed to a large number of tourism businesses.

The flyers stated tourists should stay away from the passages as they are dangerous.

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