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Cook Islands organics group challenges incoming water tariffs, calls for meeting

Wednesday 10 July 2024 | Written by CI News Staff | Published in Environment, Health, Local, National

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Cook Islands organics group challenges incoming water tariffs, calls for meeting
The Tariff Assessment Report estimates there are 375 agricultural connections to meter, but Natura Kuki Airani chair Io Vakapora claims that To Tatou Vai still has not met with grower groups. SUPPLIED/24070920

Natura Kuki Airani, the Cook Islands organics movement, is holding a meeting with the Ministry of Agriculture this Friday to raise their concerns about the incoming water tariffs.

In a statement, Natura Kuki Airani says water authority To Tatou Vai has bought forward the introduction of water charges but the island’s growers have been “kept in the dark”.

The group added at vaka meetings in June, the Rarotonga public were told of monthly water fees from October 2024. The Tariff Assessment Report estimates there are 375 agricultural connections to meter, but Natura Kuki Airani says that To Tatou Vai still has not met with grower groups.

“Water use should be discussed with us, the growers,” said Io Vakapora, chair of the Natura Kuki Airani. “What is the norm in the Cook Islands? How many barrels will we get per field, per day?”

“The coastal margins are easier to plough and plant, but sandy soil drains fast. Dry stock doesn't take much - just the rain that God provides, but leafy crops and taro enua (land taro) need more water.”  

To Tatou Vai chief executive Apii Timoti said the three public meetings held last month were open to all, including growers, and there were speakers at the meetings representing growers including Vakapora.
“As Mr Vakapora is aware, having attended a meeting, TTV intends initially to introduce a flat fee for service based on the size of the metre,” Timoti said.

“Volumetric charges will not, and cannot be, introduced until meters are installed. The tariff report based its estimate agricultural water use on an AECOM study done in 2014 in which it estimated agricultural use represented 32 per cent of the overall total demand.  

“It is intended to meet with growers before any volumetric charge is introduced but this is best done after at least some meters are installed and we have more accurate and up to date measures of actual usage.”

Natura Kuki Airani said that a user-pays system “simply will not work” in Rarotonga.

“Our growers are working family land, and Ariki land, so who will get the water bill each month?”

Timoti explained that every installation will be assigned a connection and registered to an owner

“The occupier will be billed unless the owner wishes to receive the invoice.”

Natura Kuki Airani inviting those with similar concerns to a Grower Water Tariff meeting at the Ministry of Agriculture boardroom in Arorangi on Friday, July 12, from 8am to 10am.  

“This meeting is for all growers: those who grow for their community, raise livestock, have a shade house, nursery, or farm commercially,” Vakapora said.

To Tatou Vai has also been invited to this meeting.

Timoti said the meeting with the Ministry of Agriculture is noted.

“TTV approached the Ministry to organise a meeting with growers and the consultant, Mr Dan Jackson, but received no response,” he added.