Landowners, Opposition Member of Parliament, and Government officials during Thursday’s tour of the Avatiu Valley intake. 20112626
Elected officials and landowners were given a tour of the Avatiu intake on Thursday where trials are underway to test the recently completed water treatment system, but one opposition MP wasn’t impressed with what she saw.
Landowners and Members of Parliament from the Opposition
Democratic Party were given a tour of Avatiu Intake to showcase the level of
progress of Rarotonga’s water infrastructure upgrades.
The tour was led by Te Mato Vai officials and individuals
from New Zealand engineering firm, GHD, which is contracted to manage the $100
During the tour, attendees were shown the infrastructure and
equipment that combines to form the water treatment plant that has begun
delivering Rarotonga’s cleaner water.
But the tour, held before Parliament’s expected one-day
sitting today, failed to impress Opposition MP Selina Napa.
At the Avatiu site, water is collected at a recently
constructed dam before entering a settling chamber, where dirt and other
unwanted particles are removed. The water then moves through a sand filter
before entering storage tanks.
Disinfection equipment is on site, however the government
has yet to make a decision on a method and currently is not part of the
treatment process. While the treated water is cleaner, it isn’t drinkable.
Nine out of 10 intakes are undergoing trials where a
chemical called polyaluminium chloride, or PACl, is added to the settlement
chambers to remove small dirt particles and other contaminants found in water,
such as bird droppings.
Project officials said an environmental impact assessment
(EIA) is underway to assess the effects of PACl usage, and how it will be
Commenting after the tour, MP Sel Napa said she wasn’t
convinced that using PACl was the best choice for consumers.
Napa said the answers provided by officials during the tour
didn’t adequately explain how PACl sludge and the by-product from sand
filtration will be disposed in an environmentally responsible manner.
“This is a major inland development that will affect our
water supply, our streams that flow out to sea. Why didn’t this government
first obtain an EIA? Everyone seems to be avoiding that question and ducking
for cover,” said the Titikaveka MP, who is a board member of the Rarotonga
Environment Authority and sits on the select committee for the To Tatou Vai
“The EIA has a critical purpose of protecting our
environment and the welfare of our people,” she added.
During the tour, Te Mato Vai officials said they are
currently testing at multiple points in the catchment areas to assess levels of
aluminum – an element that already exists naturally in Rarotonga’s freshwater
In some instances, GHD’s project manager Peter Free said
aluminum levels have been found to be lower downstream from settlement chambers
where PACl is added, compared to further upstream before the water undergoes
Officials also fielded questions about the management of
Deputy project manager Matt Boyd said the To Tatou Vai
Authority Bill – which is currently with a select committee that has yet to
produce its final report – will contain provisions that allow for the setup of
committees that will be tasked with stewardship of the ten catchment areas on
“That’s the job of the landowners and the caretakers of each
individual valley, to look after that catchment and figure out ways to control
what you’re saying,” he said.
Also in attendance were Mangaia MPs Agnes Armstrong, Tetangi
Matapo, and Wesley Kareroa, as well as government officials from Infrastructure
Cook Islands and the Ministry of Marine Resources.
A last-minute Cabinet meeting prevented the Prime Minister
and a number of Cabinet ministers from attending the tour.
During Friday’s Parliament sitting, it is expected the To Tatou
Vai Authority Bill’s select committee will seek adjournment, and delay
submission of its final report.
out Saturday’s edition of Cook Islands News for our feature on the Te Mato Vai
water infrastructure project.