Te Ipukarea Society (TIS) technical director Kelvin Passfield told CINews that the Aitutaki Conservation Trust was in charge of distribution of the petition to shops on Aitutaki, and had received interest from many local businesses who wanted a copy for people to sign.
However a petition at Aquila grocery shop had been recalled by the island council. The petition was said to be almost full of signatures.
Passfield said there is now only one petition booklet available on Aitutaki, at the Koru Cafe.
TIS wrote a letter to the island council explaining the purpose of the petition, which asks ‘that the Cook Islands Government sells no more days for purse seine fishing as of the public consultation on purse seine fishing on March 16, 2015 and that the Cook Islands government phase out purse seine fishing in the Cook Islands’ exclusive economic zone when the current licences expire, and at the latest by March 2016’.
However the island council had met on Monday, and asked that TIS and the Ministry of Marine Resources come to Aitutaki and hold public consultations before circulating the petition, Passfield said.
As a non-governmental organisation TIS did not have the financial capacity to go to Aitutaki and had experienced no issues with any other island councils in regard to the petition, he said.
The island council’s reasoning seemed to be that circulation of the petition should have been administered through them, under the Island Government Act 2013, he said.
TIS was now seeking legal advice, and believed neither the Government nor any island council had the authority to administer petitions.
“We are not trying to cause trouble, but people have a constitutional right to sign this petition if they want to.”
When CINews rang the Aitutaki Island Administration yesterday afternoon, they said no one would be able to comment until today, as they were busy with the Sunday flights referendum.
Passfield said TIS estimated about 1,000 signatures had been collected in petition booklets circulated across the country. The online petition reached 1,000 signatures on Tuesday night.