Te Ipukarea Society’s first annual general meeting was held in June 1996. The non-governmental organisation celebrates its 25th anniversary this year. TIS/21060424
A 25th anniversary is known as a silver jubilee and this year sees Te Ipukarea Society (TIS) celebrating that significant milestone.
At our very first annual general meeting in June 1996, Wayne
King was elected as president, and Esther Katu as vice president. Also elected
to the committee was Jolene Bosanquet, Ana Tiraa, Teariki Rongo, Jacqui Evans,
and David Amoa.
This was some pedigree of environmentalists, as can be seen
by where many of them are today. Jolene
is still on the executive committee, Teariki is now chair of Korero o te Orau,
Wayne is director at Climate Change Cook Islands, Ana is a global councillor
for the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), and Jacqui has
set up her own environmental foundation for the ocean, the Moana Foundation.
A scan of our very first newsletter in August 1996 shows
that our core values have changed very little.
We were organising a Clean up the World Day, recycling,
running membership drives, celebrating the Year of the Coral Reef, commenting
on the Tourism Master Plan, discussing the trimming of ironwood trees in
Kavera, and agricultural runoff and its impact on our lagoons.
It seems despite our very best efforts, our work is not yet
We asked some of the founding members to share their
memories of what it was like starting up an environmental non-governmental
organisation (NGO) from scratch.
Wayne King recalls having a discussion with Jolene in 1996
about setting up the NGO. The overall objective was to establish an
environmental advocacy group which addressed a wide range of common interests.
Jolene then set out getting the cogs moving with a group of about a dozen
people soon joining in to make it happen.
Wayne says he is a bit hazy on how the name Taporoporoanga
Ipukarea Society developed, but he does remember asking Teina Rongo to design
the logo, which has been retained to this day. He also recalls that one of the
big targets was how to engage locals in becoming members and getting involved.
Ana Tiraa was working for the government in the mid-90s when
the public service reforms happened. Massive staff cutbacks in the public service
took place and many were concerned about the implication it would have on the
Ana said: “I remember our first public meeting was held in
the conference room of the old scholarship office behind the juicing factory in
Takuvaine. As they say, the rest is history!”
“My association with TIS is one of the highlights of my
career. I met and worked with many passionate people because of TIS. I won’t
name them all as I am sure I will leave some out. From humble beginnings,
here’s wishing TIS a happy 25th birthday, and many more”.
Jacqui Evans was working for the Environment Service when
TIS was first established and also recalls the very first meeting.
“I remember some of the other founding members who have
passed on, moved away, or gone on to other things. I think our first campaign
was a partnership with uniformed organisations and the general community to
pick up litter and sort out the recyclables.”
Jacqui recalls that TIS were the first to do a recycling
campaign, several years before the government began to advocate recycling.
“We also did the first cloth shopping bag campaign, working
in partnership with the Girl Guides, with the help of our late patron Dame
Margaret Karika Ariki.
“Foodland, then owned by John and Linda Wichman, sold the
bags in the front of the shop. The following year we coordinated the 1997
Pacific Year of the Coral Reef where we held an event in the front garden of
the Banana Court (before the construction of the Blue Note Cafe, now
Jacqui describes TIS back then as “just a group of people
that cared and wanted to do extra for the environment in our own time. We were
the only interest group with qualified marine biologists and environmental
scientists at the time”.
“Since then, we've learnt an enormous amount about
campaigning, organisational management, project proposals, funding and
management, media, policy, and politics. Our executive did all of the work as
volunteers in the first 10 years because we hadn't matured enough to begin
projects that hired staff.
“Running an NGO is not easy and there were a number of
others that tried to do what we did and started but then folded or became
inactive. This is why I think that unless you're going to do something
completely different, it's better to join an existing NGO and if you think
there needs to be some change, change it from the inside.
One thing is for certain, says Jacqui: “Te Ipukarea
Society's integrity will always be maintained.”
Another of the founding members of the society and current
executive committee member, is Jolene Bosanquet. She reflects here on some of
her memories of those early days.
“Awareness as to the appropriateness of certain development
projects was growing in the Cook Islands and it was obvious to a number of Cook
Islanders that there was a need for an environmental organisation to raise
awareness and to protest against inappropriate developments.
“TIS is a member of Birdlife International, and the IUCN,
which adds considerably to our credibility as a genuine and dedicated
conservation organisation. For many TIS members, the most memorable campaign
was ‘Save Our Suwarrow’ when we managed to protect for future generations the
Bird Sanctuary of Suwarrow in the Northern Cook Islands, which was earmarked
for fisheries and pearl farming development back in the late 1990s and early
“Now some 25 years since inception, the Cook Islands can
feel justifiably proud of the endeavours of Te Ipukarea Society through the
commitment of a collection of caring Cook Islanders and through our benefactors
– both private individuals as well as international environmental
“Happy 25th Birthday TIS.”
Everyone is welcome to attend our 25th AGM which is being
held at 4.30pm this Wednesday, June 9 at the Karika Palace in Avarua.