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Te Ipukarea Society: 27 years of protecting our Ipukarea

Saturday 13 May 2023 | Written by Te Ipukarea Society | Published in Environment, National


It has been almost 12 months since the last Te Ipukarea Society Annual General Meeting (AGM). As usual, before our AGM, we look back over the activities of the Society for the preceding 12 months.

To begin, we have produced a new strategic plan to guide us through to 2030. One of the main changes from the previous plan was to remove the youth portfolio, as we believe it is already incorporated across our work in the other four focal areas. So that leaves us with Biodiversity, Waste Management, Ecologically Sustainable Development and Climate Change.

In biodiversity this year, under the leadership of Ian Karika, we have continued efforts to support the Takitumu Conservation Area with the annual rat baiting programme and Kakerori Census, in support of bird conservation.

As the Cook Islands BirdLife International partner, the Society was represented by director Alanna Smith at the Birdlife Congress 100 year celebration in Cambridge, England. While there she contributed to the planning for BirdLife’s 10 year strategy i.e birds, science and partnerships.

A real highlight for the year has been the collaborative effort with the New Zealand Department of Conservation, National Environment Service and Ministry of Agriculture to assist with the Rat Eradication Feasibility Study carried out in Palmerston. The actual eradication is planned to happen in July/August this year.

Moving on to the waste management portfolio, the Society has continued raising awareness on waste issues in the country. We have done that by producing awareness raising video clips, working with Apii Nikao to highlight the impacts of leaving rubbish at the beach, how to achieve zero waste cultures and the impacts of burning plastic. All these were screened and played on local TV, Facebook and our own YouTube channel “Conservation Cook Islands”. These issues tie into our ocean pollution schools educational programme which was a popular topic amongst schools on Rarotonga.

We have also continued on with the women's health, reusable feminine hygiene senior school educational programme on Rarotonga, by introducing a new reusable product ‘period undies’.

Walking the talk on reducing waste has prompted us to initiate a Rent A Plate portable dishwashing station to be utilised by community groups as a fundraising initiative at popular food market vendor sites. This reduces the amount of packaging waste generated at market sites and provides an alternative waste free option for customers to consider. It also provides a great fundraising mechanism for local schools or charitable groups.

In our third focal area, ecologically sustainable development, our main campaign has been raising awareness of the potential impacts of deep sea mining, and the need to ensure independent scientific research is undertaken, rather than relying solely on the research being conducted by mining companies.

Staff also presented to local businesses at the Aitutaki Tourism and Business Conference held in Aitutaki about how they can improve their waste management by refusing, reducing or repurposing waste generated by businesses. We are developing information cards on how visiting guests can apply eco-conscious practices whilst on holiday.

Finally, there is our climate change portfolio. Our main achievement this year has been an eight-metre extension and reshaping of the Avana geo-textile sandbag coastal revetment. This work was needed to help control some erosion that was occurring at the southern end of the structure. Geo-textile sandbags are an alternative and preferable form of coastal protection for the Cook Islands when compared to rock or concrete walls. We always use them in conjunction with nature-based solutions such as foreshore planting of vetiver grass and local vines, shrubs and trees to help provide additional protection against erosion.

This is a brief summary of our 2022-23 work completed. If you are interested in hearing about our plans for the next 12 months, and to watch a trailer of our soon to be released seabed mining documentary, come along to our 27th AGM at Karika Palace, behind the Court House, at 4.30pm this coming Thursday, May 18.