Businessman Steve Lyon, whose livelihood depends on the “industry”, says that there should be no fetters whatsoever on tourist numbers. I believe he may be under the illusion that bigger numbers of bodies off the aeroplanes means more customers.
Steve suggests that the tourism “industry” is one of the cleanest industries there is. Well to my mind, this just ain’t so; but, as Steve points out, the ingredient missing on Rarotonga is provision in our laws for forcing the “industry” to protect the very environment that draws tourists here in the first place.
Our laws seem inadequate, but worse, they seem to be simply toothless or else managed by public servants who don’t appear to care and/or are seemingly overshadowed by some of the “captains” of the “industry” who in the end, or so it sometimes appears, run the show.
One might look at the multiple tourist units nearing completion on the Tikioki end of Muri Beach, sitting on a postage stamp of a section. That project applied for an EIA.
A concerned neighbour commissioned an extensive submission to the Rarotonga Environment Authority on the details of the EIA. Among the points were the fact that the EIA was co-written by the developer himself.
Imagine that happening in Australia or New Zealand? It would have been laughed out of the local environment council.
The neighbour then pointed out that the developer/co-author admitted in the EIA to filling in an old government waste dump on the land instead of removing it, leaving any toxins to continue to leach into the lagoon, but now with a hotel sitting on top.
The neighbour pointed out that the daily sewage from 40 or so guests is to be disposed of across the main road on a section of land that was once a swamp but has now been filled in.
However, the rest of the swamp is still there and the swamp drains under the road and spills into the lagoon. Will the guests at the new development have to wonder if what they had for supper has joined them in the lagoon for that early morning swim?
The neighbour whose submission went to the Environment Authority got no reply, never heard another word, and, magically, the EIA was approved.
Unfettered “growth” of an unregulated “industry” has about as much chance of being sustainable as the Cook Islands has of seeing political reform in our lifetimes.
So, say goodbye to whatever remnant is now left of the natural heritage that our ancestors managed successfully for millennia in Muri lagoon. Our children and grandchildren will only see it in picture books.
(Name and address supplied)