Pa Enua students address climate change

Thursday August 20, 2015 Written by Sarah Wilson/Climate Change Newsletter Published in Outer Islands
Teava Iro from private composting entity Papaaroa explains composting to students. Teava Iro from private composting entity Papaaroa explains composting to students.

Senior students in the northern islands are all set to help combat climate change on their islands following workshops last month.


In the course of four days on Rarotonga the students worked on proposals to address a specific issue or area likely to be threatened, or already impacted, by climate change on their respective islands.

This involved students talking to the leaders on their islands, researching and collating background information about their islands.

There were also fun activities to which students created and performed a drama about their chosen project or a song.

The Penrhyn students were quick to catch on with climate change to which they performed different human activities that cause detrimental impacts on the environment.

Rakahanga students, without a teacher, depicted the actions of humans that affect fish migration and breeding places.

Students from Palmerston Island presented a drama about boats throwing their anchors on to the reef and causing damage to their reef and ecosystems.

For the first day, students were greeted by Aronga Mana (traditional leaders) of Puaikura with a turou (traditional welcome).

The turou was led by Kaina Mataiapo as the Kaumaiti Tou Ariki and Tinomana Ariki then led the students to the workshop venue at the Rarotongan Resort.

In his opening address, the Kaumaiti challenged the students to listen and learn from the experts but to also question relevancy of information to their specific situations and particular islands.

Climate change coordinator Celine Dyer says the workshop aimed to give northern group students the opportunity to build awareness on issues relating to climate change, develop their research skills and to capture interest in the various disciplines involved as potential career paths.

The programme included site visits to various organisations such as the composting unit at Papaaroa.

Since each of these islands depends on its harbours or reef passage for supplies and transport, this exposure introduced students to different adaptation measures carried out on Rarotonga and showed them what is being done by government and private people.

Dyer says this reiterated that adaptation to climate change is not only government's responsibility but everyone's business. 

Students were also treated to a boat ride with Climate Change advisor Dr Rongo who covered a range of topics to supplement what they learned in previous lectures at the workshop.

These included the influence of land-based activities on the ocean, ocean acidification, atoll and volcanic island formation, and the importance of reefs as natural barriers to the impact of cyclonic waves.

Field trips included the Meteorological Office where staff explained the process of collecting, collating and interpreting data to produce weather forecasts.

At the end of the workshop, Penrhyn School proposed to keep their Pitaka environment a pristine nesting and resting place for turtles, through embarking on tree planting on motus where turtles congregate to lay their eggs.

Creating a safe haven for turtles through raui and tree planting will add to strengthen the recovery ability of the local systems against intense events of climate change.

Rakahanga school chose to redesign and open up their fish pond that was closed off.

The project will address food security, habitat and biodiversity protection.

Nassau school chose to address food security by the construction of a drainage system in the taro swamp to prevent flooding during heavy rainfalls that damage the taro crops.

They also want to fence the planting area to keep animals away from damaging crops.

Cyclone Matini, which devastated Manihiki and particularly the village of Tauhunu, prompted Manihiki School to embark on tree planting.

The Pacific Mahogany or Tamanu tree was chosen because of its root system that goes deep into the ground to hold the soil.

With the expectation of more intense cyclones due to climate change, the project aims to strengthen the resilience of the island system against intense weather events, thus making communities safer.

Palmerston students proposed to install a mooring beyond the reef for anchoring boats.

This will prevent further damage to the reef and ecosystems from the heavy weight of boat anchors thrown in the water.

The mooring will be a permanent structure where boats will attach to, rather than throwing an anchor.  Niua School opted to ensure food security as a means to strengthening the resilience of their island communities to climate change.

Due to sea level rise and heavy rain, the taro plantations are hit with two different impacts they have to deal with.

The students presented their proposals to invited guests including Prime Minister Henry Puna and his wife, Akaiti.

The Prime Minister encouraged the students to use local resources which are better suited to their environment rather than introducing foreign elements.

He also congratulated the students for their efforts and vision and all those agencies who supported the workshop.

Puna also reassured the students that the government has agreed to extend the jurisdiction of Marae Moana to include the Northern Group islands. 

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