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Geologist urges clearing away pine, eucalyptus

RAROTONGA, Cook Islands (The Cook Islands Herald, June 10, 2009) - Visiting Geologist and Soil Expert are raising concerns over the high presence of Pine and Eucalyptus trees that are clearly putting Mangaia’s natural resources such as water, soil productivity and coral reef protection at risk.

[PIR editor’s note: Mangaia- also known as Auau Enua - is the southernmost of the Southern Cook Islands. Captain James Cook was the first European to find Mangaia, in 1777. The volcanic island, some 18 million years old, is said to be the oldest island in the Pacific. ]

Much thanks and appreciation has been given to visiting Canadian Geologist, Paul Ascott who recently visited Mangaia to propose alternative energy possibilities to key decision makers of Mangaia. His visit to Mangaia was prompted by the Ariki of Maupiti, who through his relationship with Ariki Numangatini arranged for Paul to visit Mangaia.

It is noticeable on arrival to Mangaia, says Paul that the high presence of Pine and Eucalyptus Trees on the island is having a negative impact on the natural resources of Mangaia, such as water, soil productivity and coral reef protection. The dryness of the soil, the narrowness of the streams leading into the Taro patch and the acid holes visible on the coral reef says Paul, are clear indicators of such negative activity imposed by the Pine and Eucalyptus Trees.

Fortunately, the timely visit of Dr. Yasu Kawabe from New Zealand to the Cook Islands, a soil specialist, could not have been better timed, as he supported the concerns raised by Geologist Paul Ascott, and that the harvesting of the Pine trees is a necessity. To not harvest the Pine trees says Dr. Yasu Kawabe is to allow for further drying of water supplies, that once flourished through the streams leading into the Taro patches of Mangaia. Furthermore says Dr. Yasu Kawabe, the increased dispersement of acidity into the soil from Pine trees not only leaches onto the coral reef but it also kills off valuable soil nutrients required for crop and livestock productivity.

Although Paul’s visit was to present to the Kavana and wider community of Mangaia an alternative energy concept, which in a nutshell uses various levels of reservoirs flowing from one level to another by use of gravity pressure and therefore sustaining the protection of Mangaia’s environment from the negative impacts of fossil fuels, Paul felt at this time, the people of Mangaia need to address the negative impacts of the pine and eucalyptus trees with urgency.

The Pine trees are a hazard, says Geologist Paul Ascott and need to be harvested immediately in order to restore and retain the valuable water resources and soil nutrients of Mangaia. Paul says, that those responsible for initiating such a project should be made accountable for the damage that the Pine trees have created over the last two decades on the water supply, soil and coral reef of Mangaia. Compensation should be sort for the people of Mangaia, says Paul.

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