Pine forests of Mangaia surveyed

Friday October 17, 2014 Written by Published in Outer Islands
Mangaia’s controversial pine forests were the subject of discussion during a recent visit by an international conservation group INSET:Piet Wit of the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Technical Director Kelvin Passfield of Te Ipukarea Society. 14101603/14101315 Mangaia’s controversial pine forests were the subject of discussion during a recent visit by an international conservation group INSET:Piet Wit of the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Technical Director Kelvin Passfield of Te Ipukarea Society. 14101603/14101315

Mangaia’s controversial pine forests could possibly be a “positive” for the island, said a visiting scientist with a global conservation association.

Members of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), led by Chairman Piet Wit, were recently in the Cook Islands to evaluate a number of environmental issues currently affecting the country.
As part of the IUCN’s twice-a-year meetings, a delegation travelled to the Cook Islands, where Kelvin Passfield of Te Ipukarea Society – himself an IUCN member - suggested the group travel to Mangaia to look at the island’s pine forest plantations.
Wit, who chairs the Commission of Ecosystem Management the global conservation group, was on hand for the Mangaia visit and while describing his observations as casual, he said the  forests may be providing benefits for the island’s ecosystem.
During the visit, he said the group looked at the pros and cons of the forests, the effects on the island’s water table, along with potential uses.
He said forests help water infiltrate the ground and prevent run-off, cutting down the risk of flooding by steadying the flow.
“It’s true forests use water, but do they abuse water? My conviction is that the answer is no,” said Wit. “The trees take their tax, but the balance of having forests in Mangaia is positive.”
Much of the island’s pine forests came about when significant portions of land were abandoned after the collapse of a once-thriving pineapple growing industry. As a result, soil was exposed to the elements, making the land susceptible to erosion.
As a result, the growing of the pine trees was offered as a solution to the problem.
Decades later, it is said that some of the trees have grown to heights of 30 to 35 metres, and a number of officials and farmers point to the pines as causing some of the island’s water shortages.
Last December, Tamarua Member of Parliament Tetangi Matapo resurrected the issue by asking the ruling Government when the trees would be removed.
Responding on behalf of the Government, Minister of Health Nandi Glassie said removal of the trees is the responsibility of Mangaia’s island council.
Matapo said during the session the island did not have adequate machinery for such an undertaking.
If action is desired, Wit said policymakers should be in no hurry to decide the fate of the forests, as there appears to be adequate supplies of water on the island.
Further studies must be done on the forests, which he said could be undertaken by graduate students as field work.
In addition to his observations in Mangaia, he said other issues of concern in the Cook Islands include waste management in Rarotonga, and a shortage of technical expertise.
Wit described the IUCN as the largest and oldest organisation for the conservation of nature in World, and not an “activist association”. Instead, he said they attempt to bring opposing views to the same table.
Describing conservation as a “complex” issue, he said his organisation attempts  to make it “palatable” include undertaking fieldwork in different parts of the world, hence the visit to the Cooks.     

3 comments

  • Comment Link Myra Trego Wednesday, 03 June 2015 18:58 posted by Myra Trego

    Preventing Floods? What flood when there's no water to flood the island with. Oh well, it seem's that these two have had an all expense paid for trip resulting in nothingness. This specific pine is multiplying and what then when the whole island is consumed with it. Just a whole bunch of academics with no common sense. As for the government officials in Rarotonga, go sort out your bloody landfill issues and leave mangaia alone.

  • Comment Link Daphne Marsters Monday, 26 January 2015 06:00 posted by Daphne Marsters

    Remove ALL Pine trees in the Cook Islands, including Atiu... Full stop! Anyone who can read, knows it damages the environment including the islands. Stop wasting money on "field researches", Google, its faster and cheaper. Nothing grows around pine trees, plus the pine trees in the Cook Islands are too big to be processed let alone be of any use to anyone. That's why no one has offered to buy the pine trees to make anything. Stop the greed and get rid of the trees before the islands are damaged further. Chop them down immediately!

  • Comment Link William Taramai Saturday, 18 October 2014 01:04 posted by William Taramai

    These pine trees are approaching "Old Man Pine" status and will be of no use for anything except maybe firewood for umu if one prefers the taste of pine resin as added flavour, I will pass thanks. I would urge for all the MPs on the Island of Mangaia and the Island Council to work together and have the trees removed immediately. The same so called group of environmental experts decades ago stripped the land owners use of this valuable land have again resurfaced with the same pathetic view that these pine trees are actually good for the Island. Throughout New Zeakand, thousands and thousands of hectares of Forestry "Pinus Radiata" land are being cut and cleared and replaced with Beef or Dairy farming. These are big revenue generating industries and strangely soil erosion is non existent. Sadly for Mangaia, the affected Land Owners were fooled by these so called experts and misled by Government on the possibility of a Timber Mill Production Industry for the Island and the wider Cook Islands. Other revenue producing ventures should have been looked into for the land at the time and in the absence of any surfacing, palm trees would have done the same prevention role if erosion was the driving mechanism and I very much doubt it was. The truth of the matter is, the island of Mangaia (still my favourite) was abondoned by Government in a big shift from Produce (Pineapples) to Tourism on Aitutaki and Rarotonga as the case is today and we all heard it straight from the horses mouth. Sadly 20 odd years later, that same Government neglect or arrogance still exists towards the outer Islands as heard in Mr Glassie's response as to who? foots the bill should the trees be removed. As Mr Iaveta Short stated "The Cook Islands has all its eggs in one basket" "Tourism". From where I am sitting, Mangaia is looking pretty safe as the Tourism Industry is only an "ebola" flight away from turmoil and there goes all the eggs. Tangi Ke, Tangi Ke......Ko Mangaia Ko Mangaia.

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