Editorial: It is our people who protect our islands

Tuesday September 10, 2019 Written by Published in Opinion
File photo of a coconut rhinoceros beetle. 19090920 File photo of a coconut rhinoceros beetle. 19090920

Debate is raging over whether the coconut rhinoceros beetle, an invasive pest that can devastate coconut palms, has got a foothold (or trunkhold) in Tongareva.


Ministry of Agriculture entomologist Dr Maja Poeshko flew 1400km from Rarotonga to Penrhyn to check local reports of the beetle’s incursion, but found nothing. She flew all the way back – only to find an email awaiting her, reporting more evidence of the beetle.

Whether these reports are right or wrong )the jury is out for now) it demonstrates the unparalleled difficulty this nation faces in policing and securing its 1,800,000 sq km exclusive economic zone.

It is an enormous task to protect the country from drug traffickers on small yachts, mere specks on the ocean. How much harder then to protect our islands from Rhino beetle larvae hiding within ocean flotsam?

This vast area of ocean may be the Cooks’ great marae moana, but it is also the Cooks’ almost insurmountable challenge.

One or two aid-funded police patrol boats can do little on their own; the greatest asset is the insight and intelligence of local people who recognises when something is amiss.

That’s why the Ministry of Agriculture was right to listen seriously when the people of Tongareva warned of rhinoceros beetle.

And even though Dr Poeshko fond nothing on her first visit, they are right to continue their vigilance.

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