Hansen critic’s letter ‘intriguing’

Wednesday November 28, 2018 Published in Letters to the Editor

Dear Editor,

It's interesting and intriguing to consider what may really be behind David McNair's criticism of Australian visitor John Hansen (and CINews’) decision to voice his concerns about seabed mining in the Cook Islands.


Hansen chose to warn us that pandering to those unscrupulous and greedy people who desire our seabed minerals for themselves, will have severe economic repercussions for us and future generations.

Hansen's motives in going public with his concerns seem obvious to me. He is like the multitudes of manuhiri (respected and esteemed visitors) who visit our shores. Many return time and again because like us, they have also come to love our Te Ipukarea paradise, our culture and our people.

Having spoken to hundreds of envious visitors who are inevitably blown away by all we have to offer, I can tell you that they always say that we are among the friendliest and most hospitable people they've ever met and that we're extremely blessed and lucky to live in our beautifully clean and green paradise, with its pristine environment. And they say we're doubly blessed to have bountiful supplies of delicious, fresh food growing on our lands and in our moana.

“Please, do not change! Don't let the insanity of over-development and greed change your country, because that will be the beginning of the end of your paradise,” are typical comments.

And they are sentiments all Cook Islanders would agree with.

As a visitor to our country, Hansen's decision to write a letter to the editor of CINews about two conversations he overheard at a resort, came out of respect, integrity and real concern. He’s simply warning us to be very careful, and to be fully aware of those with ulterior motives. 

I am humbled that those who visit our shores see our contented people as choosing to continue living in our very own paradise, living a simple and carefree lifestyle, truly happy to share it with the world. I consider John Hansen's actions as no different to a person revealing to the police a potential terrorist plan that may result in possible loss of human life. He is telling us to be careful of being ripped off by the kinds of unscrupulous people who are definitely out there and who intend to position themselves for their own future financial benefit, and not for our country's and people's future financial security and well-being. Nor are they concerned about the plight of future generations of Cook Islanders.

Unfortunately, for those countries with huge untapped resources worth billions and trillions of dollars, exploitation of these resources usually has a negative impact. When you look at the experiences of other tangata whenua/indigenous/ First Nations peoples globally, they have frequently been systematically ripped off by others with their own agendas.

In many cases the exploiters cleverly and unscrupulously introduce new legal framework with the necessary relevant legislation to benefit those with vested interests.

Their interests are almost never in the best interests of a country’s economic wellbeing. And sometimes, even the legal ownership of a country's resources can end up in the wrong hands.

Following are the dates of articles and letters published in the two local papers. They add relevant information pointing to why Hansen wrote his open letter of concern about the prospect of seabed mining here.

As we've already been told again and again, "We're rich, wealthy...billions of dollars,No! trillions of dollars. Set up Sovereign Fund Trusts like in Norway, money  money, money… etc." Yeah, right.

CINews October 21: "First seabed meeting this evening.” CIHerald, October 24: “Public sick of CIP repeats-seabed nodules a rerun of political diversion.”

CINews, November 2: “New seabed mining laws on way”. The same newspaper on November 14: “Govt’s seabed minerals plan meets backlash”. November 17 (CINews Street Poll) “The  govt says the mining of seabed minerals could make this nation very wealthy. Others say it could be risky for the environment and cause harm. What do you think?” CINews November 19: “Deep sea mining - riches or ruin?” (letter to editor). November 21: “Mining talk horrifies visitor” and “Majority support seabed strategy: DPM”.

Official OPM press release, November 21: “Seabed minerals research paper raises key issues”-  CINews November 23: “Seabed disaster prediction unfounded” (letter to editor). November 23: Another view of government consultation meetings” (letter to editor), Sat November 24: “DPM comments misleading.”

From October 21 to November 24, the two local papers published multiple articles and letters focused on seabed mining concerns that our people are worried about. Kelvin Passfield’s column accusing DPM Brown of misleading the public's support for government's seabed mining position in last Saturday's CINews, is 100 per cent correct. And it’s the informed views of those who care, like Passfield, John Hansen and Charles Pitt, letter-writers (and yours truly), that the public clearly agree with, and not the views of  the government and their supporters, who are misleading the public for their own agenda.

There has also been a lot of discussion about seabed mining on TV and radio. All around Rarotonga, Aitutaki and the Pa Enua, people are worried about their “food cupboard” and the possible devastation they'd face, because seabed mining will impact their food supply.

McNair’s letter seemed to me harshly critical and may even have unfairly maligned Australian visitor John Hansen and his decision to share with our Cook Islands people the letter which formed the basis for the story in last Wednesday's CINews.

McNair’s letter left me with no choice but to defend the unjust criticism of this good man, who simply wanted to help us by warning us of those devious, unprincipled and  downright greedy people who are truly desperate to possess the rights to mine our seabed minerals. 

The CINews story quoted Hansen as saying, “The discussions concerned the mining of nodules on the seabed floor...how they could best proceed to obtain approvals, and then how to tie up rights. The obvious leader consistently said that they (the group), were to work with only those government officials and individuals that offered the least line of resistance, and to avoid headlines and people who opposed the idea of mining the seafloor.”

Is this why government and its advisors/consultants refused NGOs and individuals like Kelvin Passfield and his Te Ipukarea Society, and Jackie and Teina Rongo and their Korero o te 'Orau organisation, to attend and participate in these closed meetings with these “interested parties?”

Enough said.

            Papa Williams

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