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French Minister recognises Cook Islands’ marine conservation efforts

Friday 10 November 2023 | Written by Losirene Lacanivalu | Published in Local, National

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French Minister recognises Cook Islands’ marine conservation efforts
French Secretary for the Sea Hervé Berville with the Apii Nikao students at the Nikao seawall. LOSIRENE LACANIVALU/23110912

French Secretary for the Sea Hervé Berville yesterday visited the Nikao seawall Te Marae Moana mural project, acknowledging the artwork and the work done around marine conservation in the Cook Islands.

Berville met with Apii Nikao students, Rarotonga-based Mexican artist Gonzalo Aldana, who is finishing up the mural project this week, and Marae Moana ambassador Kevin Iro.

The 562-metre seawall is adorned with a multitude of characters, including 67 faces, 33 different bird species, various fish, coral, and traditional imagery dedicated to the distinct identity and environment of every one of the nation’s 15 islands. It was expected to be completed this week during the 52nd Pacific Islands Forum Leaders Meeting held in Rarotonga.

Berville thanked the Cook Islands government and the people for protecting the environment and working on the marae moana.

He said that while he is in Rarotonga, he and his team want to listen to and cooperate with the Pacific Island Leaders and put in place actions on projects that are being worked on.

“France is committed to listening to the Cook Islands and all Pacific Islands,” Berville said.


Marae Moana ambassador Kevin Iro with French Secretary for the Sea Hervé Berville and Rarotonga-based Mexican artist Gonzalo Aldana in the middle. LOSIRENE LACANIVALU/23110910

Aldana, who is largely undertaking the project, has stated that painting the mural has been a demanding task that started over a year ago. It has involved substantial resources, with 34 gallons of paint, 201 spray paint aerosols, approximately 40 brushes, and hundreds of chalks and pencils used so far.

“The conditions have been super-hot or super windy, raining, and waves jumping over the wall, so it has been very difficult to work,” Aldana earlier said.

Due to the limited width of the seawall, Aldana does not have much vertical space to work with.

“I have to cross the main road to check that the proportions are correct. It is very challenging,” Aldana said.

“But finally, this project is nearing the end of its journey.”

  • Additional reporting by Melina Etches