Thursday 4 February 2016 | Published in Letters to the Editor
Dear Editor, I would now like to take this opportunity to respond to the questions raised in your newspaper on Friday January 22 by someone who hides behind the name “Get Real” or should I name him “Nit Picker”. It seems to me that “Get Real” is a person who has little knowledge and understanding of the process if one wants to meet a Minister. All he/she had to do is ring my office phone 29030, make an appointment and I would gladly receive him/her and explain Government’s position today regarding agriculture and environmental issues. The huge hole in Arorangi “Get Real” is referring to I presume is the one in Betela. For your information, sir, this hole is outside the 30 metres foreshore area of concern as legislated by the Environment Act 2003. Also the waste material dumped in that hole is carried out by the public and not by the contractor. This issue has been addressed by National Environment Service (NES) staff, and additionally the NES is undergoing a review of its legislation to address gaps, grey-areas and overlaps with it and other legislation. Regarding the Muri lagoon algae issue, I agree that agricultural activities over the years have partly contributed to the problem in Muri Lagoon over the last 40 years. “When people referred to agriculture as the back bone of this country there was excessive use of fertiliser and chemicals during that time. While families benefited from agriculture exports, there was little regard for the damage to the environment. Today Sir, tourism is the back bone of our economy and it is continuing to grow. In recent years, we have seen a shift on tourism philosophy moving towards sustainable tourism models which aim to provide for the industry while maintaining environmental standards. Personally, I believe the Muri area is over developed for tourism. The Muri community should take ownership of what has happened so far, and how they would like to see Muri in ten or maybe 20 years time. Government is there to help them achieve their dream. An Environmental Impact Assessment (ElA) report has been called for to look at the Muri Lagoon problem going right down to Avana passage. Once the report is completed it will be released for public consultation before being considered by the Rarotonga Environment Authority (REA) for approval. Unfortunately, there is a process in place to follow and it’s a long and tedious one. The reticulation system has been talked about and I agree this will perhaps be the best alternative for us to consider for the future. WATSAN and Public Health are doing work in ensuring that the installation of future septic tanks comply with the new safety regulations both domestic and commercial to minimise the nutrient problem in Muri Lagoon. The lack of water flow in the lagoon over these years has also contributed to this problem. The question here is for Get Real is, Do you have any solutions to the problem in Muri? I assume you have. Feel free to comment on the EIA Report when it is completed. So “Get Real” I will not make any more comments until the EIA report is completed. With regards to agriculture, Get Real is saying that he is a Noni grower. Well, all I know is the Noni factory in Titikaveka is crying out for Noni paying at 70 cents per kilogram which to me is a good price. We are encouraging outer island growers to go into Noni production because at least it’s a crop they know how to grow. Get Real should get off his bum and encourage Noni farmers to plant more and increase their production. The market demand for Noni juice in China is unlimited. When Get Real refers to the fact that there is no export, yes, I put a stop to it. The main reason is the inconsistency of supply and the cost of producing these crops is very high. To add to these, the NZ Bio-security requirements are very tough today. It’s just not worth it. The local price of paw-paw and taro is much better than that in New Zealand. Anyway we should be concentrating all our efforts to support our booming tourism industry today. The recently distributed small agriculture machineries from China will definitely help the growers increase their production of Noni and a host of other crops they may wish to grow. Already the response from the growers and grower groups has been very positive as a result of these machineries. As for providing food on the table Mr. Editor, can you recall any case of anyone that died of hunger here? All I know is people are dying here of over-eating - GET REAL. Cabinet Minister KiriauTurepu
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