In a press release issued yesterday to announce continuation of the Cook Islands seabed minerals sector public consultations, Brown said the government was listening to all positive and negative feedback, as it progressed and kept all potential opportunities open.
“Our community has asked for more detail on a few matters, which we will be sharing in the coming weeks, including the proposed amendments to the 2009 Seabed Minerals Act, Regulations and Sector plan.”
Brown said he was pleased to announce continuation of the consultations in Rarotonga, following meetings with the Religious Advisory Council (RAC) last month.
“Consultation with the RAC is a continuation of the minister’s engagement with its members, which began back in 2015, at the time of the first tender for exploration,” the release said.
“The recent presentation was again met with overall support for the work being done to progress the sector towards a possible second tender of exploration licences in 2019.
“Members appreciated the potential benefits of the sector to the Cook Islands, while expressing similar sentiments expressed at the other public consultations - that government proceed with caution, noting potential risks associated with this sector’s possible activities in the future.
“The RAC asked the government to proceed at all times with the wellbeing of the Cook Islands people at the forefront of every decision.”
The release quoted Bishop Tutai Pere of the Apostolic Church as saying: “RAC members were thankful and grateful for the consistent interest, effort and pursuit that government has placed upon this seabed mineral initiative to hopefully one day turn it into our very own, major local economic industry.”
The RAC is made up of the head of major Churches in the Cook Islands – the Cook Islands Christian Church, Catholic, Seventh Day Adventist, Latter Day Saints, AOG and Apostolic.
Meetings will continue across Rarotonga and the outer islands over the next few months. Consultations in Mangaia are taking place this week, with Brown joined by Marae Moana ambassador Kevin Iro and staff from the Cook Islands Investment Corporation and Seabed Minerals Authority.
The release said Brown had also directed the Seabed Minerals Authority to resolve a number of administrative matters related to honouring a previous agreement to reserve certain nodule areas in the Cook Island Exclusive Economic Zone.
“This relates to a Cabinet-approved government/Belgian joint venture called, CIIC Seabed Resources Ltd, which will be gazetted in the near future.
“This agreement has been notified to the public since 2013,” the release said.