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By Alex J. Sword

AVARUA, Cook Islands (August 18, 2000 – Cook Islands News)---Prime Minister Dr. Terepai Maoate assured the environmental organization Taporoporoanga Ipukarea Society, Inc. (TIS) that any development plans for Suwarrow Atoll would be done for the benefit of the country.

Two representatives of the non-government environmental organization, Johnny Frisbie and Jolene Bosanquet, met with the Dr. Maoate to discuss the future of Suwarrow. Also present were the prime minister’s Chief of Staff, Eddie Drollett, and Trev Pitt.

TIS President Bosanquet told Cook Islands News that the Office of the Prime Minister is responsible for Suwarrow, which environmentalists want to protect as a bird sanctuary.

She said the office intends to appoint a new caretaker for the atoll and erect a cyclone-proof shelter there. The office will also deal with any potential investors, Bosanquet said.

She said the society asked for the meeting to assure the government doesn’t allow potential investors to develop the atoll.

TIS asked the prime minister to arrange the following:

The TIS representatives told the prime minister that they are not anti-development, but rather favor environmentally and economically sustainable development for the country. They offered some low impact eco-tourism options for Suwarrow.

According to Bosanquet, Dr. Maoate — who has visited Suwarrow twice — said that he is aware of the importance of the island within the central Pacific as a breeding area for many types of birds.

He also realizes that human interference stresses the birds. The prime minister added that any development of Suwarrow would focus on the lagoon, Bosanquet said.

"We went to find out the prime minister’s views and came away confident he will make the right choices for Suwarrow. The door has been opened for further dialogue," she said.

For additional reports from the Cook Islands News Online, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Newspapers/Cook Islands News Online.

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