Stephen Lyon has been a voice in the Cook Islands for a number of years advocating for the environment and supporting the people. As newly-elected chair of the Pacific Islands Private Sector Organisation, he spoke last month at the Pacific Islands Forum in Tuvalu.
Now he is running for politics in New Zealand. Lyon is in the early stages of campaigning to replace the scandal-tainted former National MP Jami-Lee Ross in south Auckland’s Botany Parliamentary electorate, expected to seek the National Party nomination.
If he is successful, he says he will make New Zealand his primary home. “I am in the very early stages of a highly competitive selection process, and any future decisions will depend on the outcome of that.”
Questioned on Facebook by New Zealanders about the fact he doesn’t live there, he replied: “Like other candidates before me, this is a period of transition. I have taken advice from some current MPs on the best timing for moving family back.”
“It will be with a heavy heart that I leave these islands, but I know I will always have a home here, and I will certainly return often,” said Lyon.
Lyon originally moved to the Cook Islands in 2005 and now looks back warmly on his time here. He highlights the time he spent visiting eight of the outer islands.
Rarotonga has been his family’s home, two of his children are Cook Islanders and his youngest has also grown up here.
“I thoroughly enjoy living here, and have done my best to contribute to our society where I can,” said Lyon.
He’s represented the community on the Chamber of Commerce, and earlier, the Tourism Industry Council, as part of the team that implemented the Tourism Awards and the Accreditation scheme.
Earlier, he also formed and directed the team that successfully advocated for the Cook Islands Shark Sanctuary, established back in 2012. Through these roles he has been an activist on regional issues.
“I hold strong values of environmental responsibility, but also recognize that business is the driver of the economy, and without a strong economy, society suffers,” said Lyon.
He enjoyed being a part of the Manikihi Lagoon Clean-up Project, a team effort involving the local community.
Lyon explains that the environment and the economy are not exclusive but we should always consider them equally with the environment bottom line to regulations and laws we produce.
Lyon said: “Living in The Cook Islands has really helped me better define this philosophy, as we do live so close to our environment, and rely on it for so much.”
Lyon is the director and chief instructor at Pacific Divers Cook Islands, and rirector of a not-for-profit charitable trust the Pacific Islands Conservation Initiative, working in the areas of environmental research, advocacy and conservation.
One of those roles is being a strong voice against purse seining. He supports turtle research, marine monitoring expeditions, sustainable waste management in remote communities, protected area advocacy and the protection of sharks.
This all ties in with his studies at the University of Auckland, with a Bachelor of Science and Post Graduate Diploma in Science, Environmental and Marine Sciences.
“We are the Cook Islands, and as Rarotonga continues to develop we need to bring all our people with us, on their own terms.”