The growers met a week ago to discuss the To Tatou Vai Authority Bill which is under public consultation.
The meeting attended by almost 50 growers, both domestic and commercial, was called by Natura Kuki Airani – the Cook Islands Organics Growers Association.
It started with a short summary of the To Tatou Vai Bill provided by Natura Kuki Airani members.
Participants were informed that the new water authority can prevent growers using natural water sources.
They were also told agricultural users will be first to have their water supply “restricted” in times of drought or low-pressure, as government has directed the authority to prioritise other water users.
“Growers will be charged for irrigation water. Charges are to be introduced for connection; water access (referred as a ‘periodic charge’); and water usage. “Agricultural users will be charged at a different rate than domestic users. Each connection must be separately metered; and periodic charges apply even when water is not being used.”
These points were met with criticism from the growers, and many were concerned that the additional cost would affect their businesses, says Natura Kuki Airani.
Natura Kuki Airani chair Makiroa Beniamina said that the new law may also impact the Pa Enua.
“The new economy, requires diversity. All of our growers need access to water to be part of rebuilding our country,” Beniamina said.
A Grower Committee was elected at the end of the meeting. The committee is charged with advocating for grower interests related to the To Tatou Vai Authority and Agriculture Bills.
Beniamina wished the new Grower Committee success in their endeavours on behalf of those present.
“We the growers, are behind you.”
Meanwhile the To Tatou Vai Authority Bill select committee held a public meeting at the Teau-o-Tonga at the Sinai Hall in Avarua from 6pm yesterday (Tuesday).
Today another meeting will be held at the Calvary Hall, Arorangi from 6pm and at the same time at Titikaveka Sunday School tomorrow. (Thursday)
The committee chairperson is Diana Tschan; Secretary: Andy Kirkwood (NKA).
Grower representatives, Teau-o-Tonga: Danny Mataroa; Puaikura: Junior Areai; Takitumu: Teariki Matenga (to be confirmed).
>Reporting from Natura Kuki Airani statement