Responding to the letter to the editor above, the National Environment Service provides the following responses to the questions raised;
The statement that the property developer is the co-author of the report is incorrect. The National Environment Service maintains a register of persons qualified to write Environmental Impact Assessments, which is strictly adhered to.
The Environmental Impact Assessment in question was authored by Tai Nooapii, a qualified engineer and Environmental Impact Assessor. He was commissioned by the property developer to prepare the Environmental Impact Assessment. In the development of the Environment Impact Assessment, the author (Nooapii) seeks the views and intentions of the developer and other relevant parties and includes them in the report for the Rarotonga Environment Authority’s consideration.
This is a standard practice for Environmental Impact Assessment in many countries around the world, Australia and New Zealand included. The Environmental Impact Assessment does identify the property as being a past dump site in the 1960’s. After consultations with past Public Works employees, it was identified that the site received vegetation waste from cyclone damage. In the 50 years since the cyclone waste was dumped on the property, this waste has decayed. There is nothing to suggest that the site contains the “toxic” debris that the writer suggests.
In its deliberations, the Rarotonga Environment Authority reviewed the public submissions received, including the “in-depth” review the writer mentions. The Rarotonga Environment Authority agreed with the views raised by the neighbour, and others, with regards to sewage system being located in the wetland area.
To that effect the Rarotonga Environment Authority decided that the location identified in the Environmental Impact Assessment was not appropriate and that the sewage waste should be treated on the property being developed.
The Rarotonga Environment Authority further recommended to the Sewage and Sanitation Regulator (Cook Islands Public Health) that the development be subjected to the highest sewage standard applicable under the Public Health Sewage and Sanitation Regulations 2008.
The National Environment Service apologises for not communicating back to the neighbour the consideration made by the Rarotonga Environment Authority. We will endeavour to improve this important feedback loop. The NES continues to be vigilant and welcomes the community cooperation to inform us if you feel an activity requires our attention.
Negative criticisms and misinformation are unhelpful and in fact make our job more difficult as we are compelled to spend time addressing this misinformation rather than our core business of looking after our environment.
We must continue to work together so as to ensure that our environment is sustained. Together we can achieve this and we thank the concern of our public with regard to these matters.
Be assured it is our mandate to be vigilant with regard to the care and protection of our environment for all the people of the Cook Islands.