Alanna Smith has recently been appointed a director at Te Ipukarea Society 23011251
The new director at Te Ipukarea Society, Alanna Smith’s passion for the environment runs through almost everything she does.
She’s a beauty
queen, an international netballer and an environmentalist. But Alanna Smith
never expected to be a director for Te Ipukarea Society (TIS), the Cook
Islands’ most prominent environmental-based NGO.
She began at the
organisation about six years ago as a campaigns organiser.
“It was almost
like the job found me. I had finished my degree in Environmental Management and
didn’t have a plan other than I wanted to return home to Rarotonga,” Smith
“I got a call from
(TIS technical director) Kelvin Passfield, who suggested I come along. At the
time, I didn’t know what TIS was all about, but I thought I would give it a
Smith says when
she first arrived at TIS, it had only two employees, and its profile “wasn’t
“My early role was
to develop more content, and show people what we do,” she says.
Alanna Smith is surrounded by birds at Suwarrow in 2021. 23011326
“One of my first
projects was organising a 50-day cycle campaign. We encouraged people for 50
days to bike as much as possible, and try to minimise your time using a car. We
coordinated a scavenger hunt to go with the challenge, we had a lot of fun with
Smith says the
environmental challenges in the early years were often to do with waste
“That was back
when polystyrene was still really prominent on the island, and we did a lot of
campaigns targeting reusing of recyclable material, and refusing waste
material,” she says.
effective, you don’t really see polystyrene around anymore.
“I think our
profile has definitely grown, not only in Rarotonga but also in the outer
islands. From our ocean health awareness campaigns to our composting
educational programmes, we’ve taken big steps along the way. You can be what
you want to be in this office.”
Society is one of the agencies tasked with protecting Suwarrow island, a
project that has really opened up Smith’s eyes to the need to protect
Projects on the
island include an extensive rat eradication programme, she has visited the
island on several occasions.
“There needs to be
a lot of work and grassroots education about how to protect such special
places,” she says.
Smith is also
concerned about the seabed mining issue. In the past, she has called for a
moratorium on seabed mining, especially in waters surrounding the Cook Islands.
She feels that much
more time is needed for research before a decision to mine is made.
research has been done in our waters than has been done in the international
waters that are being explored for possible mining. We need a lot more time,
and independent research. We cannot rely only on the mining companies to do
that research,” she told Cook Islands News last year, and she hasn’t resiled
from that viewpoint.
Former Miss Cook Islands Alanna Smith gets the rat traps ready for the trip to Suwarrow in 2021. She has recently been appointed Te Ipukarea Society’s new director. SUPPLIED/23011327
boats will be taking to our waters very soon, I’m going to keep a real watchful
eye on the issue over the next year,” Smith says.
there to be a lot of change in her role this year.
“TIS has grown in
many ways. The office started with four of us, now there’s about six or seven
of us. There’s a definite need for more Cook Islanders to get into the
environment and conservation space,” she says.
“My role over the
next while is going to have a lot of managing staff and ensuring they’re doing
the right thing,” she says.
“I would like to
be more out in the field, but by the same token, I always love a challenge.”
Smith says she
enjoys everything about field work from doing the bird surveys at the Takitumu
Conservation Area, to observing marine wildlife near the outer islands.
really addictive about being out in the field, and surrounded by nature,” she
When she’s not
doing her bit for the environment, you will find Smith on the netball courts – she
has represented the Cook Islands at international level.
In 2017, she also
turned heads as Miss Cook Islands, a role which she had previously told Cook
Islands News, led her to visiting many local schools and talking about her
passion for the environment.
But for Smith,
she’s always moving, and embracing new ways to protect the environment.
“I think the fact I’m
still here with TIS, and still satisfied with what I’m doing, is pretty cool,”
“We need to create
positive environmental change in our community. I would definitely recommend
getting involved, you end up wearing so many different hats.”