Seabed minerals researchers explore the Cook Islands seafloor. 20013111
OPINION: The Seabed Minerals Authority consultation was led by Deputy Prime Minister Mark Brown, Commissioner Alex Herman and Seabed Minerals Advisor Chris Brown.
The two hour presentation was well-attended by about 60 people, including MPs, religious leaders, traditional leaders, civil society, government, and members of the public.
Tereora College student Hereiti File was applauded for having the courage to ask important questions on capacity-building Cook Islanders and regulating industry.
The Authority started the presentation by talking about the Seabed Minerals Act 2019, its development and the various improvements it made in order to establish a robust regulatory framework for seabed minerals.
The limited amendments were a result of reviewing previous stakeholder feedback, and looking at how the Act and its regulations could best work together.
The amendments we are proposing aim to achieve the purposes of the Act and reflect best practice. We were pleased to be able to explain their policy rationale to the public further, including using “national” instead of “public” interest.
After the presentation, a lengthy Q&A session followed. Some questions were asked about how seabed activities fit within Marae Moana and marine spatial planning processes.
The Authority explained that under Marae Moana, it sits on the technical advisory group that prepares the plan.
The Marae Moana Act 2017 is the overarching legislation for the ocean. Marae Moana is a zoned, multi-use marine park, which promotes the protection and use of our ocean, and upholds high environmental and conservation principles.
Minister Brown said: “Environmental protection is always at the forefront, we protect our resource for Cook Islanders, and we protect our ocean through strong robust regulatory frameworks.”
In order to ensure seabed activities are aligned with Marae Moana, new changes were brought into the Act, including requiring the Authority to notify Marae Moana bodies about licence applications.
We have checks and balances within our legislation to ensure that we have these processes operating in unison.
The last speaker of the night was Bishop Tutai Pere who said: “We the Religious Advisory Council are with you and we pray along your path that eventually we finally arrive at the point where we become master of our own destiny.
“Without a doubt God has blessed our nation.”
Bishop Pere congratulated the government on the work it was doing before closing the evening in prayer.