SUWARROW, COOK ISLANDS SAVED

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By Jason Brown

AVARUA, Rarotonga, Cook Islands (April 4, 2001 – Cook Islands News)---After countless environmental battles over the preservation of a remote atoll, the bird colony of Suwarrow lives to fly another day.

The Cabinet approved a plan by businessman Peter Rimington to establish fishing and pearl farming in the Cooks. But the resolution said the development projects are not going to be done on Suwarrow as originally proposed.

The ministers bowed to public pressure to preserve Suwarrow, which environmentalists say is one of the most important breeding grounds for seabirds in the Pacific.

"There was a very resonating answer from the public: No development. Leave Suwarrow alone," said Marine Resources head Robert Woonton.

"I accept the decision of the people without any question.

"In fact, the decision was unanimous."

"That’s recognizing the wish of the people and probably recognizes the views of a majority of the people in the outer islands as well," he said.

Reaction to the Cabinet’s decision after more than a year of debate was lukewarm.

"That’s wonderful," says one environmental campaigner.

One Avarua worker was not so sure.

"It doesn’t matter what the people say, the government will still go ahead and do something different," she said.

Her co-worker was amazed at the size of the crowd that turned out for last week’s public meeting addressing the issue.

More than 400 people spilled out of Pukapuka hostel and onto the road.

"That reminded me of the days when Papa Arabati had his meetings," she said.

Other SOS members were still bubbling from the night before.

"It really struck a note didn’t it?" asked Jolene Bosanquet.

Woonton says the Cabinet recognizes Suwarrow as being a national park.

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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