But according to William Tuivaga, there is still a long way to go before people can walk the path being paved by the government’s mission.
Tuivaga, who is the manager of the Cook Islands’ ‘Strengthening the Resilience of Our Islands and Communities to Climate Change’ programme, says the people can only do so much until better infrastructure is provided.
Tuivaga presented his ideas at the Pacific Climate Change Roundtable Meeting, held in Samoa from May 12 to 14.
“It’s all good and well telling the people to walk to work instead of driving, but where will they walk? We still have to build pathways and address the dog issues,” he says.
Similarly, he says it’s all good and well to encourage people to cycle to work.
“But where will they cycle? In the middle of the roads, in front of cars, slowing down traffic because the sides of the road are too unsafe?’
Tuivaga says it’s messages like this which can’t yet be fully encouraged until the government provides better infrastructure for such activities.
However, there are areas of infrastructure that the government is moving ahead with at a good pace, he says.
One of these is the water tank subsidy which has seen more than 1500 rainwater tanks installed in homes across Rarotonga.
Ministry of Finance and Economic Management, who administers the subsidy, says the programme is based on an anticipated 2000 homes by the end of 2015.
The idea is to provide about 9.5 million litres of water storage for consumers for times when water is short.
Tuivaga says this is one project which is both more sustainable and energy efficient and which benefits the whole island, as well as providing a safeguard for those who suffer from water shortages.
He says the water tanks allow households to rely less on the water networks, which often fall victim to blockages during heavy rainfall periods, leaving many homes around the island without water.
“It isn’t a complete solution, but it is better to have some water than no water at all.”
When he presented the subsidy programme to the roundtable meeting, he highlighted that the next step in the programme would be rainwater harvesting.
“Rainwater harvesting will allow complete reliance on water tanks to provide water needs in households and businesses, which will further build our resilience to network failures.”
Another project Tuivaga championed at the meeting was the ‘Logical Framework Approach Training’ on Rarotonga.
This project, which started two years ago, allowed 10 individuals from the outer islands and Rarotonga to upskill themselves in the area of project management and implementation.
Some of them even started from scratch, having no experience with projects before.
Tuivaga says this training was important to both building local capability in managing our own resources, and also having more people implement more projects across the Cook Islands to address Climate Change.
Since the training, Tuivaga says they are now managing close to 38 projects in areas of water, fisheries and agriculture.
The programme will be offering a refresher training later this year to reinforce the key missions and messages these projects aim to achieve.
Another project Tuivaga is working to implement soon involves preparing for disasters using 3D models of the islands.
Tuivaga met with officials in Samoa who are also using these models for emergency management and he hopes to implement a similar programme later this year.
“Instead of looking at a map, you are looking at an actual model of the island, and that allows for more practical approaches to disaster preparedness,” he says.
Working as an agent and manager of island resilience to the effects of climate change, Tuivaga has one strong message to get across.
“We have to put our people in a position where they are able to cope with the challenges of today, because if they cannot cope with the challenges of today, they are in no position to cope with the challenges of tomorrow which are forecasted with climate change,” he says.
The whole role the government has to play in addressing climate change is to help the people cope today.
“Tomorrow’s challenges, that’s for tomorrow’s project managers”.